Eggplant Focaccia and The Village Press Oil Dipping Sauce

In the past, I haven’t really been too big on product reviews, simply for the reason that I don’t use that type of food or condiment in my cooking at all.  But olive oil?  Yep, I pretty much go through it like water.  I’ve drastically cut down on the amount of butter I use in my cooking (baking is still going to require the good stuff), and I have made a conscious attempt to switch over to more mono- and polyunsaturated fats (I recently learned that, at age 31, my cholesterol is a smidge high…which is simply unacceptable to me.)  So, more fiber. Less butter/cream/cheese. Increase in exercise.  I’ve actually noticed a difference in the mirror, which is great.

Anyways, back to the olive oil.  When the good people over at The Village Press contacted me to see if I would like a sample of their product to try (and review it, if I wanted to on this website-no commitment), I said, “why not?”  I’ve never really paid too much attention to the different types of olive oils in the store, but this one seemed like a little more sophisticated than the plastic bottled (and usually very cheap) version I buy.  It arrived a few days later (I recieved the Village Press Barnea Olive Bag ‘n Box 1 liter), and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

I decided to try an eggplant focaccia recipe, using the oil both in the recipe, as well as make an oregano dipping sauce to go with it.  I didn’t want to lose the true flavor of the oil in the baking process.  So, first, I poured a little oil into a dipping bowl.  Thick, olive green, and heavy, but clear.  I tasted it: true heaven.  Almost buttery and velvety tasting.  Definite flavor.  Not the thin and pretty much flavorless oil I am used to.  It didn’t need extra flavoring to be a good accompaniment to the focaccia, but since I had extra fresh herbs on hand, I went with it.

Looking at their website, there are a ton of other flavor varieties (orange and chili infused olive oil?  I can’t even imagine how awesome that would be on grilled vegetables or even fish), as well as condiments (Dear Village Press, your harissa tapenade makes me drool every time I see the picture.)  They also have gift variety packs of different flavors for sampling.  And, on top of that, they have some pretty good recipes on their website (vegetarian and non-vegetarian).  You can order directly through their website, or, another source mentions that they are available for purchase in the US at Whole Foods (I completely spaced confirming this when I was there the other night).

As for me, this is like a little bit of liquid gold.  I’m trying to conserve the liter I have for special occasions, not for everyday cooking.  I’ll stick to the cheap stuff for that, but for any kind of recipe that olive oil plays a pretty big role, like a viniagrette, for instance, this will be my new go-to.  Thanks to Rieni at The Village Press for introducing me (and hopefully a few of you out there) to a great product.

As for the focaccia, I’m not usually a big fan of eggplant (sidenote: if any of you out there have great eggplant recipes, please leave a comment.  I want to incorporate it more into my cooking, but I’m a little scared.)  Think of this focaccia like a super savory eggplant pizza.  I used my favorite homemade pizza dough recipe here, but you can use store-bought if you are short on time.  It was like a meal on its own, but I served it alongside a phenomenal pasta recipe (soon to follow).

 

Eggplant Focaccia and The Village Press Dipping Sauce

Servings: about 4

 

For the focaccia:

1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch slices

1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 pound pizza dough **I used this super easy version of my favorite recipe.  I always keep some frozen in my fridge to keep on hand. Store-bought is fine, too.

2 tablespoons cornmeal

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup Emmentaler (or swiss or Gruyere) cheese, shredded

Fresh oregano, for garnish

For the dipping sauce:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1-2 tablespoons fresh Parmesan cheese, to taste

1-2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, coarsely chopped, to taste

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

 

Instructions

1. For the focaccia:  In a large colander, toss together the sliced eggplant and the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt; let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place a rimmed baking sheet in your oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.

3. Once the eggplant and salt have been at room temperature for 30 minutes, transfer the eggplant onto a thick, clean towel (or paper towel) and lay out in a single layer.  Cover the eggplant with another towel and lightly press to remove excess moisture.  Let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

4. On a clean and flat surface, carefully roll out your pizza dough to about 1/2″-thickness.

5. Lightly sprinkle the cornmeal over the surface of another rimmed baking sheet or flat, wooden board. **The purpose of this is to make sure that the dough doesn’t stick to the baking sheet/board.  Use more cornmeal if this seems like that will happen.

6. Transfer the dough onto the baking sheet/board.

7. Lightly brush the surface of the dough with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil.

8. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese over the olive oil in an even layer.

9.  Layer the eggplant (in a single layer, if you can-a little overlap is fine) over the cheese and drizzle the eggplant with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

10. Sprinkle with fresh oregano, if using, and the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.  Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

11. VERY carefully, slide the dough onto the hot baking sheet and bake until lightly crisped and golden, about 20 minutes.

12. For the dipping sauce: Lightly whisk all the ingredients together and let sit at room temperature until ready to serve.  I had leftovers, so I just keep it in an air-tight container at room temperature and use it when I need to.

 

Source:  Focaccia from Martha Stewart, dipping sauce is a Curvy Carrot original.

 

October 6, 2012 - 1:24 pm

Mary Beth - Our Whole Foods is opening in three weeks and I’ll be on the lookout for this oil! I have high cholesterol, too, and just switched to a vegan diet a month ago and am hopeful for a big turnaround. With eggplant, I discovered a trick via Cook’s Illustrated: after you cut it, pop it in the microwave on a plate with paper towels and cook for about 5 minutes before using it in a recipe. It takes the moisture out so the eggplant doesn’t get mushy. Here’s one of my fave uses for eggplant: http://thebrokenbohemian.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/recipe-roasted-veggies/

your blog is always a treat to read- thanks for your inspiration!

October 6, 2012 - 7:11 pm

The Curvy Carrot » Eggplant Focaccia and The Village Press Oil … | ClubEvoo - [...] Link: The Curvy Carrot » Eggplant Focaccia and The Village Press Oil … [...]

October 6, 2012 - 11:53 pm

Alison - Jane Brody’s Ratatouille is truly one of the best – and I think the eggplant is what makes it so good. http://www.oduamy.com/best_ratatouille.html

I really enjoy your blog. :)

October 7, 2012 - 11:25 am

Claire @ Simply Sweet Justice - Hi Shanon! About two weeks ago, I found out that I have slightly high cholesterol, and I’m not even 30 yet! Needless to say, I went out and bought oatmeal from Costco immediately afterwards. ;-) This is a very creative dish! I made a vegetarian moussaka once in the slow cooker, and it turned out really good. Every once in a while, I’ll make “eggplant pizzas,” too! Thanks for sharing!

October 7, 2012 - 1:50 pm

Molly @ Toffee Bits and Chocolate Chips - Hey! We have a eggplant.. plant.. in our garden that has decided to grow 18 eggplant at the same time so I’m on the lookout for good eggplant recipes. This looks fantastic and I can’t wait to try it! Easy tings you can try with eggplant are cutting it in cubes, roasting, then adding to pasta sauce or slicing it thin with other veggies for a classic ratatouille.

October 7, 2012 - 7:02 pm

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - This sounds awesome!

October 7, 2012 - 11:24 pm

Erin@theLawStudentsWife - Shannon, you have me dying to run to the store and purchase this olive oil! I can see my current supply quivering in its economy-scale plastic container as we speak…

This focaccia looks wonderful. I’ve been getting into making my own bread lately, and have been searching for a focaccia recipe to try. Ta-dah here it is! How did you know?

Speaking of recipes…you mentioned you were looking for eggplant recipes to try. I made this lasagna a few weeks ago, and it was a big hit with my non-eggplant loving husband. Thought I’d pass it along.
http://www.thelawstudentswife.com/2012/09/eggplant-lasagna.html

Thanks again for sharing! This looks d-lish.

October 8, 2012 - 12:45 am

Deborah@delicioushappens.com - This looks wonderful. The dip has some of my favorite ingredients! Definitely making!! I’ll also give the olive oil a try! I have my favorite – but maybe this is even better!!

October 8, 2012 - 8:15 am

M - I LOVE eggplant, and just happen to have that and a homemade pizza dough that need to be eaten. So glad you posted this, since this will be dinner tomorrow!
Also, I have two eggplant recipes I really enjoyed. One, from my site, for eggplant enchiladas, http://beautifultastyfun.blogspot.com/2012/07/eggplant-enchiladas-with-homemade.html.

The other recipe was for spicy eggplant, and it was wonderful. It was really tasty! http://www.preventionrd.com/2012/07/spicy-eggplant/

October 9, 2012 - 12:59 am

Karen - Love you blog, and as an eggplant lover, this recipe looks delicious. One of my favorite eggplant dishes is eggplant caponata served over linguine:
http://cinnamonfreud.blogspot.com/2012/03/eggplant-caponata-pasta.html

October 10, 2012 - 10:54 pm

Maria - I recently stepped into a local Southern CA store called We Olive. They have barrels of flavored olive oils and taste testing to help you out. Loved the experience. As for eggplant, last season I made an eggplant parmesan recipe from the folks at ATK–breaded and layered and baked.. Delish!

November 1, 2012 - 10:01 am

Garlic Red Mashed Potato Focaccia & Dreamfarm Giveaway - [...] Eggplant Focaccia – The Curvy Carrot [...]

December 6, 2012 - 2:10 pm

Emily Harting - I really don’t like eggplant either but I LOVE my friend Ren’s Caponata:
Ren’s Caponata

1 large Eggplant-cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium size onion-finely chopped
1 cup pitted green olives
3 cloves garlic-minced
3 T tomato paste
5 or 6 artichoke hearts-chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 t salt
FRESH Tarragon- whole lot!
dried basil and oregano
Spray olive oil

-Place eggplant on cookie sheet sprayed with a little olive oil. Quick spray again on the eggplant, then add dried basil and oregano. Bake 350 degrees about half hour.

-In large skillet saute onion & garlic in oil w/ salt-5 min.

-Stir in tomato paste and vinegar and heat to boiling. Add olives and remove from heat.

-Stir in artichoke hearts and cooked eggplant. Cool to room temp. and add chopped fresh tarragon.

Serve with hummus, crackers and pita bread.

Enjoy

December 6, 2012 - 2:26 pm

srlacy - Ooooh, this looks really good. I think I am going to have to try this one…thanks for the recipe!!!

December 16, 2012 - 3:54 am

L@Bachology - I only use Village Press olive oil for all of my olive oil needs. Just gorgeous. And velvety and green grassy as you have described. I too go through it like water. Lovely recipe thank you…

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