I think it was Demi Moore who once said, “You can’t go home again.” While I don’t personally subscribe to this philosophy and have loved returning home ever since I first left it (especially with a full laundry basket and a checking account in the tens place), I understand the sentiment. Sometimes home is a memory, and those can be impossible to re-create . . . unless, of course, most of your significant memories involve food—as ours do. Then, home is a kitchen to which you can return frequently, armed with enough cheese, bread, and wine to warm the heart of even the most stoic 90s anti-hero. I see you smoking in that swing set, Demi.
This particular appetizer finds Micah longing for home, specifically his favorite neighborhood haunt: house. wine. & bistro in Mcallen, Tx. (and, yeah, the name is precious as hell, but he took me once, and they have the chops to back up all manner of pretension. You had me at duck confit mac & cheese, house. wine.). There, he first experienced something similar to the dish we present to you: grilled focaccia with roasted red peppers, pesto, and—of course—grilled panela cheese. Ours is a strict homage, though we use cilantro in the pesto instead of basil. Otherwise, house. wine. could be flattered enough to sue us for recipe infringement.
We make our focaccia with a homemade chili powder, but—praise be to Ina—store-bought is fine. The real key is the cheese—you need one with a high-melting point, so no mozzarella or other such nonsense. We encourage you to make this in your own home, for all your friends and family, with a firm middle finger raised to Thomas Wolfe.
We came home, girl, and we brought treats.
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 ¾ cup warm water, divided
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons chili powder, or mixed chili blend
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, and ¼ cup of the warm water. Let this rest together for 20 minutes. Yeast should be bubbly and activated by the sugar.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, chili powder, salt). Set aside.
- If using a kitchen aid, add 1 cup of the flour mixture to ensure easier mixing and blend together with the yeast mixture until combined. Add the olive oil and the water and mix until combined. Slowly add the flour at a low speed until fully combined, and let mix on the dough hook for about 3 minutes, or until you can press a finger into the dough and the impression stays.
- If mixing by hand, add the water and olive oil to the yeast mixture, stir until combined, and then slowly add the flour mixture. Once all combined, knead by hand on a floured surface for about 5 minutes, or until you can press a finger into the dough and the impression stays.
- Grease the same bowl the dough was mixed in and return the dough, covering with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled.
- Once the dough has risen, take a half sheet pan and liberally drizzle with olive oil, taking care to make sure it is spread over the entire sheet. I use approximately ¼ a cup.
- Using your hands, or a small rolling pin, spread the dough over the entire pan. Make sure to spread evenly. Cover the pan with more plastic wrap.
- Let the dough rise for another 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425F.
- Once risen, take your finger or the bottom of a wooden spoon and press indentions in an even pattern all over the bread. Drizzle more olive oil over the dough and sprinkle chili powder over for color. If you prefer a thinner focaccia, place directly in the oven. If you prefer fluffier, let rise again, uncovered, for another 30 minutes before placing in the oven.
- Cook for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately, or keep for 1 day.
- 4 cups fresh cilantro leaves + stems, loosely packed
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ cup macadamia nuts (walnuts or pine nuts would work too)
- Juice of 1 lime
- ½ cup light oil (vegetable, canola, or extra virgin olive oil)
- ½ salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 fresh red bell pepper, sliced into ¼ inch slices
- 1 round of fresh queso panela, sliced into ¼ inch slices
- Combine cilantro leaves, stems, garlic, and macadamia nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, and pulse until coarsely chopped.
- Add citrus and pulse until combined. With processor running, slowly drizzle oil into mixture. Add salt + pepper and pulse until desired texture.
- Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator topped with enough oil to cover the exposed pesto.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Slice cheese into quarter inch slices, and add to heated skillet.
- Cook the cheese on each side until slightly browned and softened, turning only once. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In the same heated skillet, lightly sauté the peppers until slightly browned yet still crunchy. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Slice focaccia horizontally to desired thickness. Grill slightly in a grill pan until heated and crisped.
- Smear with cilantro pesto & top with cheese & peppers.
- Garnish with a cilantro leaf.