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Joy .. with Homemade Focaccia .. and a Giveaway from New Orleans

Focaccia Sandwich

I am getting back into the groove of

cooking and baking more at home

, especially bread and enjoying every bite of what I eat because it was made at home, with love! :)

My resolution to create from scratch only gets strengthened everyday, as I come across more and more blogs that talk about dietary restrictions effected by some sort of dietary system disorder. In fact, it almost seems, the trend these days is to talk gluten-free, dairy-free.. etc.-free.

I have always wondered if this was the way human race was supposed to progress by Darwinian mechanisms or if our collective desire for ever-more instant gratification is, ironically, leading us individually down the path of regimented self-denial. Then, this morning I read this

very informative post

by Regula that set my mind into overdrive brooding over the perils of modern day living!

grape-focaccia-collage

Drama aside, the loss of traditions in food and eating has more than just a cultural impact on our lives. These days, it has serious health concerns.

Slow Food

to many, sounds like New Age, Hippie jargon but, really, I think it is just that many of us have lost the connection with eating well and hence do not relate to it.

Reading books like

this

, makes me yearn for those times of foraging, living off what the land around you provides,

growing vegetables in your garden and making everything at home

, feeding the family with meals that were made from start to finish with the utmost care and respect for the ingredients. What is more, these simple choices build a community and bonds within, in sharing with neighbors in times of abundance and scarcity.

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Yes, I realise I am being both ironic and idealistic. I live in New York, a place that seemingly epitomizes the constant quest for material perfection - faster, sooner, NOW. But, it is also the place where changing ideas and mind sets are accepted with as much instance. So, while there is a seeming dichotomy in the juxtaposition of the towering sky scrapers and the farmers' markets, there is space for the idealists like me to

sit by the window and imagine a flourishing window-sill garden or an uniquely

green wall art

and daydream

of a day when I can wind back time to a more relaxed, enjoyable and peaceful way of living.

Until then, all I can do is eat well and stay healthy and make and enjoy meals together with friends and family!

Now, for the Giveaway... It's a sweet one!

Winner of the giveaway is

Melody

! Congratulations Melody!!! Hope you love the chocolates.

Sucre Chocolate box

In the same note of celebrating life,

just because!

, what better way than with chocolate!!! I have a beautiful and very tasty giveaway for you, courtesy of Sucre, a New Orleans chocolatier, also known for their beautiful

macarons

! I love

New Orleans

for its distinct Southern-ness and the strong pride, the people have in their culture and cuisine, not to mention phenomenal chefs like

Chef John Besh

who insist on local and seasonal. New Orleans has a special place for me and I am happy to bring a bit of it to you through this giveaway!

Sucre

will send one lucky winner in the US, a box of their

signature truffles

. I have tasted them and they are not just any chocolates, the flavors are uniquely New Orleans!

Giveaway Details -:

- One Box of Signature Chocolate Collection

- US delivery only

- Giveaway is open until midnight EST , March 10, 2013

- Winner will be announced on March 11, 2013 and will be required to send me address details by midnight on March 11, 2013. If not, another winner will be chosen

- Chocolates will be shipped out to the winner that week

To Enter -:

1. Leave a comment on this post with intent to participate.

2. For an additional chance to win, Tweet this giveaway with a link to this post and my twitter handle (@ashafsk) and leave a comment back here with the tweet and your twitter handle.

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Have a great week and bake more! I leave you with a

recipe for Grape Focaccia below

that makes for incredible sandwiches if you save enough after devouring it with olive oil and good balsamic!

Grape Focaccia

{I used up slowly drying grapes from a bunch I had over-invested in and were slowly turning into raisins under the heat of the sun. If you use fresh, plump grapes, they may burst while baking, but fret not! The focaccia tastes yummy just the same!}

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125g whole wheat flour

125g all purpose flour

250 ml water at 110F

2g instant yeast

1 tsp ground sea salt

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup light olive oil

handful of fresh sweet grapes

1 T of chopped fresh herbs (I used rosemary and thyme)

Dissolve the yeast in the water with the sugar and set aside for 10 minutes until foamy. Sift together the flours and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, pour half the olive oil and the yeast mixture. Moving your hands in circles, stir in the dough until all the dryness is gone. Do not overwork the dough so you maintain the fluffiness.

Coat the dough in a little oil and placed in an oiled bowl deep enough to allow it grow to twice its volume. Place in a warm, draft free place for a couple of hours until doubled. Preheat oven to 450F. Pour (yes, it will be very loose consistency) the dough into a baking pan or tray and gently stretch to desired shape with oiled finger tips. Drizzle with the remaining oil and sprinkle the grapes, herbs and some sea salt over the bread and lightly press in.

Bake for about 15-17 minutes until you smell the bread and it's just golden brown on top. Remove to rack for a few minutes and then eat!

The best thing about a focaccia is you don't have to wait for the bread to completely cool before you can enjoy it!

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Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK