Maine blueberries=the best damn fruit you will ever put in your mouth. Maine blueberries rival pineapple from Hawaii in winter and fresh apples from Washington in autumn. They are the size of nickels, some the size of quarters, and they’re full of sweet, blueberry flavor. Usually, the bigger the berries, the less flavorful they are, but not these suckers.
All around southern Maine, there are U-Pick blueberry farms where you can pick and buy berries for a couple bucks a pint. Our farm of choice, Winslow Farms, is one close to our house. It’s easily accessible from all directions and the high-bush varieties are packed with fruit.
I went twice in one week–Chris, Izzy, and I ate 6 pints in 5 days. One entire pint went to the dog because she decided she wanted a little snack in the middle of the day when we weren’t home. The same thing happened today with Maryland peaches. The only thing left of the 3 she ate were pits in the middle of the floor. She’s a fruit monster, that one!
With all the fresh berries on hand, I wanted to do something different from the regular smoothie, cobbler, or pie. I wanted a product more savory than sweet, so I figured focaccia would be a good platform. Why focaccia?
A couple weeks ago, Chris and I stayed overnight in the Camden/Rockland area for our anniversary. We ate at Primo and overnighted in a renovated chicken coop. Our meal at Primo was exactly what we expected: each course was distinctive but transitioned beautifully with the one that followed. Our selections:
- Hudson Valley Foie Gras hot and cold seared and mousse with fig jam and chive cream cheese pain perdu, local strawberries and balsamic vinegar
- Bread basket (or two) with the best olive oil I have ever tasted in my life
- Moulard Duck Breast with farro and wild rice with leeks, wild garlic, sage honey roasted fig and cipolline onions, caramelized romanesco
- Seared Tuna with fresh limas, heirloom tomatoes, fried avocado, and nasturtiums
- Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with frozen vanilla custard and Banana Cream Tartlet with salted caramel and peanuts
- 1+ bottle of Edra, Grullas de paso, Cabernet, Merlot, Tempranillo, and Garnacha blend
One of the stars of the show came in the bread basket at the beginning of our meal. It was an onion and herb-du-jour focaccia. It was lightly salted, and when dipped in their to-die-for olive oil, it was a simple, perfect bite.
And that’s how I was inspired (and just by being in the general vicinity as Chef Melissa Kelly).
Focaccia is super easy to make and the only thing it takes a lot of is olive oil. The majority of the process is hands-off and the end result is a pillowy, oily canvas food. Another perk: the flavor combinations for this bread are endless!
I used the recipe for pizza dough in my 1962 edition of Joy of Cooking (an estate sale score) and added 1/2 a cup of olive oil, and let it rise a couple times.
- 1 package (2¼ teaspoons) dry active yeast
- 1⅓ cups warm (105 to 110 degree F) water
- 3½ to 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ Olive oil
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup fresh blueberries
- 1 Tbsp. rosemary
- Sprinkle of flaked sea salt
- Goat cheese and honey to taste
- Combine yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and let stand until the yeast has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
- Add the flour, about 2 Tbsp. olive oil, salt and sugar. Mix with yeast and water.
- Mix all ingredients by hand or on low speed for about 1 minute to blend all the ingredients. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Continue kneading for about 2 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Repeat with 1 Tbsp. oil.Knead 2-3 more minutes. Add yet another 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and knead until incorporated.
- Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to a bowl and transfer the dough, turning it over a couple times to coat with oil. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75 to 80 degrees) until it has doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
- Coat a 9X13 baking sheet with, you guessed it, a drizzle of olive oil. After the dough has risen, empty dough on sheet pan and using your fingers, pat out into a rough rectangle form. Using your fingertips, make dimples all over the dough. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat a dash of olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat and add shallots. Cook for about 2 minutes. You want them more raw than cooked. Take off heat.
- Cover dough evenly with blueberries, and drizzle of olive oil, and salt.
- Bake about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and add shallots and rosemary. Return to oven and cook for 10 minutes more until the top of the dough is golden brown and blueberries have popped open.
- Serve with honey and goat cheese.