The latest diet craze - the Mediterranean diet - strikes me as very strange. Not the diet itself, but rather the whole idea of a 'diet' based on the most popular components of the foods eaten in this area. The reason it is strange to me, of course, is because this is the kind of food I eat all the time. Let's think about it for a minute. What is this 'diet'? Well, it all starts with what Rachel Ray calls, EVOO, in other words Extra Virgin Olive Oil. From there, it really depends on where you are in the Mediterranean Basin. For instance, think of Italian food, and you think of tomato sauce and pasta. Think of French food from Provence, then you must include, sharp cheeses, red wine and lots of herbs. Actually, when you think of it, Italian food, Spanish food and all North African food, also includes herbs, olive oil and spices (often very spicy!). Lately I've been baking all kinds of dishes (quiches, pies and breads) from this area. This is all in preparation for some workshops I will be teaching this summer on Crete, the largest of the Greek Islands.
This bread is fairly typical of breads from the entire region. It includes olive oil, and even feta cheese, in some versions. It takes a long time to rise in the winter but in the summer will rise quickly. Unlike many breads from the Eastern Mediterranean, it has yeast to help it rise. Many breads from this area are flatbreads, like the famous pita bread found all over the Mediterranean and Middle East in one form or another. This recipe makes one fairly large loaf and keeps really well for several days. The addition of olives and feta give it a distinctly Middle eastern flavor. Needless to say, it makes great sandwiches especially with a sharp cheese, or with some kind of smoked meat. And mustard, good strong dijon mustard.
Here's What You'll Need:
1 onion thinly sliced
1Tbs. olive oil
1 cup pitted and chopped green or black olives
400g (3 cups) bread flour
about 150g (5oz) drained and crumbled feta cheese
2tsp instant yeast
1Tbs chopped oregano, coriander, parsley and/or mint
1 cup hot (45C/120F) water
Here's What You'll Need to Do:
1. Fry the onion in the olive oil until lightly browned. Roughly chop the olives.
2. Put the flour, salt, yeast and herbs in a large bowl with the olives and fried onions and feta cheese, and pour in 1 cup hot water (not boiling - about 45C or 120F).
3. Mix the dough until it comes together. Then place on a lightly-floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and just barely sticky. Add flour or water as necessary to get the correct feel.
4. Put in a lightly-oiled bowl and cover. Leave it to rise until doubled, about 2 hours (the onions and olive will weigh it down).
5. Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Lightly grease a baking sheet, then shape the dough into a tight boule. Leave it lightly covered to rise again until doubled.
6. Just before baking, slash the bread with a sharp knife, about 1/2 in (3mm) deep.
7. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until it is a deep rich brown. Serve with unsalted butter, or as part of a meze table. That's the small salads and dips that you find everywhere in this area. In Spain called tapas, in Greece, meze.