The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 03.16.04


Focaccia: Healthy, tasty, and not out of a box

Sorry, but no television ad is going to convince me that a frozen pie in a box is as good as take-out or a homemade pizza.

I'm sick of watching the plethora of boxed pizza peddlers who seem to think that men in particular cannot tell the difference between frozen and fresh.

It's downright insulting and enough is enough, already. If any gender knows a good pizza, then it is the male who struts his pizza prowess.

Have you seen the ad where a 30-something fox stands by a grocery store freezer case and tells a young 16- to 18-year-old-boy that she recognizes him from somewhere?

He replies; "50 High Street, all dressed with olives."

She looks perplexed and says, "I don't see you much anymore," while she clutches a large pizza box.

His reply; "You don't order pizza anymore, either."

There is so much sexual innuendo in this short segment that young males just may be running to line up for pizza delivery jobs in droves. Hello, Mrs. Robinson…

Seriously, its time we males stand up to the purveyance of ads that portray us as stupid enough to eat any thing the wife puts in front of us. According to these ads, a woman shouldn't tell a man that something is good for them, either.

There's an ad that shows an older couple sitting down to a dinner of pasta. Little does the unsuspecting man know that he has been duped into eating whole-wheat pasta.

On the sly, the wife has substituted his regular spaghetti with a healthy choice brand. As he slurps and clutches a fork with his fist, he declares that the next thing you know, the wife will be burning her bra and that he will be attending street protests if she ever suggests a healthy diet.

"Eat healthy?" "Never!" he declares while he shoves another gob of noodles into his Archie Bunker face.

Yet another ad shows a lady slipping a little soy protein into a pasta sauce. When hubby says how good it is and asks what might be different she disguises the word soy with intermittent coughs. He doesn't quite hear her and she says it again with the same cough.

Meanwhile, the viewer is painfully aware that the poor man has been soy suckered.

Enough of the male bashing, I say, we men can discern whole wheat and soy from semolina and beef any time. Contrary to popular belief, we enjoy a healthy meal now and again, too.

As an example of just how much a man can appreciate healthy food, I'm providing a recipe for foccacia. This resembles pizza in its purest form and for all intents and purposes, it is one.

However, in general, the toppings you choose will dictate its healthiness and I'm not seeing them in the frozen-food case yet. Load up on olives, good olive oil, feta cheese, and some hot peppers and garlic and you'll have a feast for your goddess. There is no sense trying to tell her its take-out either. She'll know you aren't as dumb as that.

Garlic/rosemary focaccia
(Recipe by Julia Child)
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
Cornmeal topping
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary

[Greg's note: Add any toppings you desire such as olives, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and hot peppers.]

Put the yeast in a measuring cup and pour 1/4 cup warm water over it. Let proof 10 minutes.

Pour yeast into the bowl of a food processor. Add remaining water, salt and two and 1/2 cups of the flour. Process two minutes.

Add 1/2 cup flour and blend again until flour is absorbed. Dough will be moister than usual bread dough.

Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly just until dough pulls together, about 12 times. Place in a large greased bowl, turning to coat, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and generously sprinkle cornmeal over centre of baking sheet.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into an oval or round loaf, using your hands. It will be sticky and resistant, so when you have it partially shaped, brush on remaining olive oil and transfer to baking sheet. Continue to stretch and pat out dough until you have a 10-inch round or an 8X12-inch rectangle.

Sprinkle salt over top and insert slivers of garlic all over top of dough, pushing them all the way into dough and pinching dough over them so they are covered. Sprinkle on rosemary and desired toppings and let dough rest 15 minutes. Bake 25 minutes, remove and serve warm. Sprinkle with a little olive oil just before serving.