Olive Oil Stars in Two Delicious Recipes: Marinated Tomato & Cheese; Rustic Flatbread

Lucky me to receive some free, sample bottles of Lucero olive oil as “research” a few weeks before my cooking demo at Lucero Olive Oil’s 5th Annual Spring Bloom Festival in Corning Saturday.

Friend Chris Carter, my favorite catering partner, was my assistant. As promised to those who were in the audience that day, here are the food demo recipes. Those of you who weren’t there will appreciate these recipes, too.

Here’s Doni and Chris at a catering gig  at O Street Gallery last month.

I felt so grateful to be indoors, where a breeze periodically wafted through the warehouse and up to the stage where Chris and I demonstrated how to make two dishes that featured olive oil: Marinated Tomato and Cheese Salad, and Olive Oil Flatbread.

The Marinated Tomato and Cheese Salad, to my thinking, really isn’t a salad, but more like a dip in which to dunk crusty bread. Or, you can scoop the mixture over hot pasta, or even use it as a pizza topping, or as a bruschetta appetizer topping. For the least fussy way possible, just eat it with a spoon. It’s just that delicious, because of the marriage of tomato, brie, basil, garlic and salt and pepper.

I’ve been making the Marinated Tomato and Cheese Salad for about 25 or 30 years, which is how long I’ve had the cookbook in which it’s featured, The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook., which remains one of my favorite cookbooks.

This recipe is especially good in the summer, when tomatoes are ripe. You can make it in the morning, and then cover the bowl and let it sit on the counter for a few hours as the flavors meld and the brie oozes. Provide slices of a good-quality bread for dipping and scooping, and you’ll hear the swoons from your guests as they eat this amazingly delicious but amazingly simple recipe.

I went a bit overboard with the olive oil this time, because it was a demo at an olive oil festival. Usually the recipe isn’t so wet. But that’s exactly what makes it such a great dip.

I think each of my two demo sessions that day were supposed to last 30 minutes, but I cannot help it that these recipes are so quick, even with trying to drag it out and show all my related tricks and tips about everything from putting a wet paper towel under a cutting board (prevents slippage) to making a garlic paste with salt and the back of a knife blade (prevents garlic hunks) – spackle-style.

Another helpful tip when making this recipe has to do with the brie. The recipe calls for the removal of the rind, which can be tricky if the cheese is ripe and soft. As you’re chopping the tomatoes and slicing the basil and mashing the garlic, let the wrapped brie hang out in the freezer. This way, when it’s time to remove the rind, the cheese will have firmed up a bit, and you’ll be able to remove paper-thin slices of rind without getting globs of gooey cheese with it, which would be a shameful waste of cheese.

Each recipe took something like 10 minutes to demonstrate, and all was left was for Chris to keep up with passing out samples. “Hey, Chris! Over here with those!”

The second recipe took even less time, because, unlike the first recipe that requires cutting and chopping, making the Olive Oil Flatbread dough is just a matter of unceremoniously dumping everything in a bowl and using a little French spatula (a flexible little plastic scraper – also called a dough scraper), rather than a wood spoon to mix everything and bring it into a nice big ball. Even better is to dump all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or standing mixer, in which case the whole procedure literally takes about 30 seconds.

The result is an extremely pliable, super soft dough that has a bit of a sheen (from the olive oil). You form the dough into about 12 balls, then roll them out (like tortillas) and cook them in a hot non-stick frying pan that’s been brushed with some olive oil. You can use the flatbread as a dip for things like tapanades or olive oils, or it makes a great surface upon which to spread things like, oh, the Marinated Tomato and Cheese Salad.

I will share another tip that I learned after I arrived home from Corning Saturday with a bag of flatbread dough. I started to roll it out by hand, as I’d done for the demonstration, but out of the corner of my eye I saw my pasta machine in my kitchen, looking at me like, “Use me!” That’s exactly what I did. I formed the dough into balls, and flattened them, but then I put them through the roller attachment on my pasta machine. SO much faster, and the dough grew so much bigger! See for yourself. It’s my new favorite recipe, and I have a hunch you may agree.

Olive Oil Flatbread

3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup water
1 tsp. salt

Mix all the ingredients together – either by hand or with a food processor or standing mixer – until it becomes a nice, soft ball of dough. Let rest for about 10 minutes. divide the dough into about 12 pieces (or more, if you want the flatbreads smaller). Roll the dough into flattened discs. Do not worry if they’re not perfectly round, or if they are different sizes.

Brush a non-stick frying pan with olive oil, and fry the dough a few seconds on each side, turning the dough often to prevent burning.

Marinated Tomato and Cheese Salad

4 ripe large tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped into ¾ inch cubes
1 pound of Brie, rind removed, cheese cut into irregular pieces
1 cup basil, cut into strips
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2/3 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the tomatoes, Brie, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Stir gently to combine. Let stand covered at room temperature at least two hours. Serve with bread to soak up the marinade.

 From The Silver Palate Goodtimes Cookbook

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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