Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tonight's Dinner Before the Middle School Concert

We had to eat early tonight, to get to Pierson Middle School for a seven o'clock concert. I made Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce, salad from Bette and Dale's (there were fights over the edible flowers), and this quick-and-easy olive-and-rosemary ciabatta. No time for dessert. The 8th grade band's selection from "The Barber of Seville" wouldn't wait.

The concert was short and sweet.The 8th grade chorus members were absolute songbirds. The 8th grade band showed its versatility by playing a march and Under the Sea before conquering opera. The surprise highlight of the evening was the finale, a performance by a 7th-grade trio of electric guitarists along with an excellent drummer. Although billed in the program as "Rock Ensemble," the group's leader emphatically informed the audience that they were not "Rock Ensemble," but "Writer's Block." Their original songs displayed the breadth of their interests, ranging in subject matter from the Devil to snow days.

Olive and Rosemary Ciabatta
Makes 2 ciabatta breads

Ciabatta is a great bread to make when you don't want to work too hard. You knead the dough in seconds in a food processor. Instead of shaping it, you just invert the whole mass onto a baking sheet and cut it in two. The loaves spread and rise in the oven, free-form. Unbleached all-purpose flour (I buy the King Arthur brand from the IGA) instead of bread flour gives the ciabatta its chewy but soft texture. I used pitted green olives from Citarella (another time saver) and rosemary from my patio. Don't be alarmed at the stickiness of the dough. A high proportion of water (and a lot of olive oil) is what makes it bubbly and moist.

3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan and brushing the loaves
1/3 cup pitted and chopped green olives
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1. Combine the water and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse once. Add the flour, salt, sugar, and oil and process until the dough forms a smooth ball. Continue to process for 30 seconds. Add the olives and rosemary and pulse 2 or 3 times to distribute. The dough will be very sticky.
2. Oil a 7-x-11-inch baking dish. Scrape the dough into the dish and pat it with floured fingertips to push and stretch it across the bottom of the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
3. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet. Uncover the dough and place the baking sheet, right side down, on top of the dough. Invert the dish onto the baking sheet and shake once or twice to release the dough.
3. Use a sharp chef's knife to cut the dough into two skinny rectangles. Use the edge of the knife to separate the dough pieces from each other by at least 3 inches. Sprinkle the loaves with flour and drape lightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until the dough is puffy and risen by about 50 percent, 40 minutes to 1 hour.
4. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the loaves until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Brush the hot loaves with some olive oil and let cool completely before slicing and serving.

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