Behold, friends, Toronto’s best focaccia.
At least that’s what the sign outside the bakery said, and who were we, overtired and glassy-eyed with hunger, sitting stuck in traffic in our car in the rain, to argue? We had said goodbye to my mom just that morning and two of the four of us were suffering from miserable end-of-summer colds.
We weren’t going anywhere anyway.
So we pulled over and dashed right in to check it out.
My knowledge of the Toronto focaccia scene is perhaps not the most extensive, but I can say that the good people who baked this bread have done everything right.
There is a reason their establishment is named OMG Baked Goodness; in fact it was all I could do not to devour most of our loaf during the ten-minute drive home.
Instead, I turned it into this vast, indulgently-proportioned sandwich, which is exactly what we (and by “we,” I mean, mostly, me) needed on a dreary, emotional grey day.
OMG Focaccia Sandwich to Feed the Masses
Since we are coming up to a long weekend, I’d like to suggest that this sandwich, or a similar incarnation of it – without the cheese perhaps? – would be just the thing for lunch or a light dinner en plein aire.
1 large round focaccia loaf (preferably OMG’s Herb & Garlic)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
225g crimini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
3 tbsp pesto mayonnaise (I made my own: 1 tbsp pesto + 2 tbsp mayo)
8 sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 slices grilled zucchini*
a generous amount of cheese
*I happened to have some leftover grilled zucchini in the fridge, and if I hadn’t had that I’d have used something else – likely prosciutto.
Cut focaccia in half horizontally, to make two rounds.
Melt butter and olive oil in a medium pan set over medium-high heat. Saute mushrooms until golden.
Divide pesto mayonnaise evenly between focaccia halves, and then layer each half with equal amounts of each topping. Place on a large baking sheet and cook under the broiler until cheese has melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Cut into wedges, this would easily feed six, or even eight with a side salad.
I use the term “my garden” fairly loosely, since it will soon belong to someone else – which is why it is so overgrown.
I have no complaints about the mint and chives, though – they are two of my favourites, and I am happy to have them in abundance, at least for the time being (my new garden is lovely and lush, but also very well-ordered; so, for this growing season, anyway, there will be no invasive herbs running amok).
Between the mint and the heat, our meals have been largely inspired by the Mediterranean – a lot of grilling, quite a lot of olive oil and garlic, some rosemary, some lamb.
I am now at the point of almost constantly fantasizing about my new kitchen and all of the things that will happen in it: long, lingering conversations, slow cooked dinners, multi-course breakfasts (really!).
But until we get there, the order of the day is meals in minutes.
I am aiming generally for luscious, robust things that will fill me and cheer me, and can be made in the amount of time it would otherwise take to scoop some ice cream into a bowl.
I found this dish fit the bill admirably.
Lunch in minutes
I used a grilled eggplant leftover from a previous meal, which is why this took so little time for me to cobble together; but if you don’t happen to have any leftovers on hand, the grilling only adds a few minutes to your prep time.
1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise and grilled
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp wine vinegar
100g feta, crumbled
Cut grilled eggplant slices into cubes.
Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl , toss gently, and serve.
Serves 4, as a side dish
I know, I know, of course there is.
But at this moment, eyes and nose streaming, ears clogged, throat raw, sleep-deprived and generally miserable as I am, I am finding it hard to keep some perspective.
In fact, I am so miserable that there is really only one thing I am willing to eat – and it is pictured above.
This silken, soothing custard is the ultimate comfort food to me, and my childhood dish of choice when anything really unbearable came my way.
Give me this, and some hot water with lemon and lots of honey (no whiskey, I promise), and I may live to see another day.
Baked Vanilla Custard
adapted from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook
1 tsp vanilla
a sprinkling of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil a kettleful of water. Lightly grease a one-litre ovenproof dish.
Combine milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk until milk is very warm (do not bring to a boil, or you will have a curdled mess rather than a silken dreamy thing to eat) and sugar dissolved.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs an vanilla. Pour milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Pour custard into prepared dish, and sprinkle with nutmeg. Place dish in a roasting pan and place in the oven; pour boiled water into the roasting pan, until it reaches half way up the sides of the custard dish.
Bake 25-35 minutes, until almost set. Remove custard from roasting pan and leave it to cool, in its dish, as long as you can. It might be marginally better cold, but I never get that far.
Serves two greedy people.