Tomato Ciabatta with Olives and Onions – Food and Wine, September 2014


Oh look, how the magazine said it would look. Photo Credit – Andrea Wyner

Lest I have somehow fooled you into thinking I am foolishly wasting my cooking and photography talents by having a different career, I present this incredibly flat ciabatta bread.

tomato ciabatta with olives and oniones


I had a few hours between brunch and an impromptu party, and as I flipped through the latest Food and Wine, I conjured an image of wafting into said party bearing delicious loaves of ciabatta bread, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, flavored with tomatoes and onions. It didn’t quite go as planned.

I hate to blame the recipe, BUT I am going to blame the recipe unless any baking warriors out there can take a look at this and go “no, Allison, it’s definitely you.” I have made a lot of bread in my time, and my friends, this dough is wet. Incredibly wet and incredibly sticky. There is a very high water-flour ratio. The vegetables that get added into the dough are cooked in olive oil and not drained, which adds extra moisture to the dough. (I did think, wow, this is a lot of oil into already stick dough, did try to avoid getting most of the olive oil into the dough.) I quadruple checked the measurements to make sure I was correct.

Whenever I follow a baking recipe for the first time, I try to follow the recipe exactly.  The recipe said “IT WILL BE QUITE WET,” so despite contemplating adding more flour, I decided to trust the recipe.

That was a mistake. The loaves didn’t retain their shape in the oven but spreeeaaaaaad out, resulting in a flat, fococcia-like loaf that transported terribly. I tried to wrap the bread in parchment, then foil, but nothing worked. Finally, I gave up and Christopher cradled the bread in his arms like a baby while we drove to the party.

However, despite my declaration of “Ugh, this bread is terrible and squishy,” upon slicing it, the bread was delicious. The partygoers turned bread guinea pigs were pleased by the texture (“YOU HAD ME AT SQUISHY!” my friend Anna declared) and the flavor of the bread is great. The cooked onions, olives, cherry tomatoes, and tomato paste give the bread the flavors of your favorite pizza. If I were to make it again, I’d add a half cup of parmesan cheese to the dough.

I would absolutely love to make this again, but I’d like some advice from anyone with bread experience. What’s wrong with this recipe? Is it the amount of flour? The water? The amount of yeast?

Tomato Ciabatta with Olives and Onions  

(Recipe by Ylenia Sambati, Food and Wine)


  •  5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
  • 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Three 1/4-oz packages active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
  • 3/4 cup fine semolina


  1. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat until lightly caramelized, 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and crushed red pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the olives and tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper and let cool.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the yeast, sugar and water; let stand until foamy, 10 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the 2 1/2 cups of flour and the semolina until the dough comes together; it will be quite wet. Stir in the cooled olive mixture. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel. Let stand in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°. Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Shape it into 2 rough 14-by-3 1/2-inch loaves and transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, until the loaves are lightly browned and risen; transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

A Tale of Terror and Bravery – Corn, Zucchini, and Red Pepper Salad with Feta

Corn and zucchini salad with red pepper and feta

Some chopped  fresh veggies

I have debated the merits of including the descriptions of BUGS IN MY FOOD before a tasty recipe, but all other descriptions of this salad pale in comparison to the True Tale of Terror. So, please keep in mind as you read: “Nature is terrible but this corn salad is delicious.”

This is the story of how I almost died, but was the most courageous girl in the world and managed to finish this corn salad despite the extreme terror and agony I suffered.

THERE I WAS, innocently shucking corn for a corn salad. I peeled back the husk, only to see the world’s LARGEST WORM lunge at me from the corn kernels.

death worm



I screamed and threw the corn into the trash can, then retreated into the furthest corner of the kitchen. Needing to share my terror, I called Christopher, who was driving back from Target.

“Hello?” he said.

“AUUUGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!” I said, bravely, in the calmest tones despite the abject terror before me.

“WHAT’S WRONG!?!” he said, flooring the gas, assuming I was the victim of a stabbing.


“That’s – that’s it?” he said, obviously not understanding the sheer terror I had bravely faced.

“IT’S IN THE TRASH CAN WAITING TO ATTACK. TAKE IT AWAY. TAKE IT AWAY.” I said, calmly and rationally, with pure survivor instincts.

He hung up on me, obviously needing to focus on driving speedily to come to my side to fight the Death Worm Beast. I tweeted about my harrowing experience, as one does.

When he finally arrived, not appreciating the ongoing threat, Christopher removed the corn from the trash and examined the worm. I had not expected to face my enemy again so soon. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! IT’S GOING TO ATTACK.”

He assured me it was not, but returned it to the trash can. After shucking the rest of the corn and examining the rest for unwelcome guests, the Corn Death Worm and its corresponding corn cob were whisked away to Trash Land.

I, the picture of bravery, knew now what must be done. I must finish the corn salad.

SO. This corn salad, WORM FREE, is absolutely delicious. The dressing is tangy, the vegetables crisp, and the feta cheese creamy. I started out using a recipe from Bon Appetit, but changed up a few of the ingredients along the way. OBVIOUSLY there was less corn than originally planned. I cut down the amount of zucchini because there really is so much raw zucchini one can take. I added a diced red pepper  for crispness and sweetness. I also upped the amount of feta cheese, because if there’s one thingI know, it’s that there is never such a thing as too much cheese.

You should definitely make this salad. You should also definitely check your corn at the store for unwanted intruders.


corn and zucchini salad with red peppers and feta

corn salad of bravery

Corn, Zucchini, and Red Pepper Salad with Feta

(Adapted from this recipe by Bon Appetit)


  • 3 ears of corn, husked
  • 1 medium sized zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces of feta, crumbled


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the corn in the boiling water for three minutes until bright yellow, remove from water and let cool. Once cooled, cut the kernels from the cob.
  2. Meanwhile, using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise, forming thin strips.
  3. Combine the corn kernels, zuchinni slices, red pepper, basil, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Top with feta.



Smashed Fingerling Potatoes with Jalapeños- Bon Appétit, July 2014

Fingerling potatoes with jalapenos

“FOR OUTDOOR USE” declared the July issue of Bon Appétit. I thought that was terrific, and pictured myself standing over the grill, Bon Appétit in one hand, fork in the other, tasty meat charring before me. Possibly while wearing  a jaunty chef’s hat.

Of course the first recipe I made from this issue was not outdoors during the glory days of summer, but indoors at the end of August. If I was an issue of Bon Appétit magazine, my cover would read “FOR INDOOR USE ONLY.” The outdoors is just a terrible place, guys. Mosquitoes. Dirt. Bugs. Non-controlled climate.

If you somehow are still grilling into the final days of summer, this is a very nice potato dish to make indoors and then eat with your outdoor food. Or you could cook your entire meal indoors and congratulate yourself on your passive dominance over nature.

Usually when someone says “Potato Salad,” one pictures a bowl of mayonnaise with a few sad potatoes floating around. This recipe is a million times better. Small fingerling potatoes are drizzled in olive oil and oven-roasted, then tossed with a delicious whole-grain mustard vinaigrette, fresh parsley, and jalapeños while warm. The jalapeños provide the perfect kick.

These potatoes pairs well with any summer-ish meat main – burgers, steak, barbecue chicken.

Smashed Fingerlings with Jalapenos 

(Bon Appétit, July 2014, recipe by Lou Lambert and Larry McGuire)

My Notes: 

  • Smashing the potatoes is fun. Give them about five minutes to cool then gently press on them with a wooden spoon until they pop.
  • I used red-wine vinegar.
  • I didn’t think my potatoes were overly large but halved most of them anyway to make them more bite-sized.
  • I was bringing this to a Labor Day party, so I removed the core and seeds from the jalapeños before slicing in case others did not share in my adoration for spice.
  • I thought this was better warm, so make it as close to meal time as you can. I made mine about five hours before serving it, and it was definitely tastier in the first hour than it was in the last.


  • 3 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved crosswise if large
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed if desired
  • ¼ cup (lightly packed) torn flat-leaf parsley leaves


  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Toss potatoes with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until golden brown and tender, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then lightly flatten.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar and mustard in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining ¼ cup oil until emulsified; season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes, jalapeño, and parsley and toss; season with salt and pepper.