Thursday, September 2, 2010

Curse of the Black Thumb: Rosemary Focaccia Bread

Sigh. I look through all of these wonderful food blogs with pictures of people in their immaculate vegetable gardens. These people look so happy as they grow their heirloom tomatoes, beautiful squash, and complain about what to do with the bushels of basil they produce. I hate them.

Why? Because I can’t even grow dirt. I’m serious. Our yard looks post-apocalyptic: nothing but bare sand and weeds. The citrus trees have withered away, and the Live Oak is becoming ironic. When I go to the plant store, I look like a cartoon villain – the plants all wither and die as I walk by. It’s just sad.

I've always told Don that his OGT (obviously gay trait) was supposed to be gardening. Mine is cooking (OK, and I’m an interior designer too). But instead of HGTV, he got hooked on Project Runway and picked up a sewing machine – just no cooperation at all. In the meantime, our yard suffers and I’m reduced to buying dried herbs because neither of us can grow fresh ones.

I’ve come to grudgingly accept dried herbs. Given the choice, I will always prefer fresh, but I was spending $10-$15 per week on fresh herbs at the grocery store. It was either cut out fresh herbs or cut out half of the weekly wine budget. When you put it that way, there’s really no contest.

The one exception I make is parsley. It’s relatively cheap - I can spend a buck, make it last for 2 weeks, and add a lot of life to dishes with just one fresh herb at the end. Unfortunately, everything else was jettisoned.

I’ve tried the dried versions of most herbs. Some are OK (like thyme and bay leaves), while there is no point in even using others (like basil or mint). One of the herbs that I think works well dried is rosemary. Of course, I love rosemary anyway. I mean, what’s not to love? Earthy, piney, lemony, bold – it’s wonderful.

The one thing rosemary doesn’t do is play second fiddle. Because it’s so strong, it ends up being the dominant flavor most of the time (at least the way I use it). So I figured, why not let it stand out in front?

I was throwing together a pretty easy weekend dinner, so I thought I should spend some time and make some bread. Because we were having pasta, I thought a focaccia would go nicely. Like I said before, rosemary is always high on my list – besides, I figured it would work well with the chicken and tomato sauce on the pasta. I was right.

The thing I love about focaccia is the crispy, crunchy outer layer. It’s baked with so much oil, that it almost deep fries. Can there be anything better than deep fried bread? OK, maybe deep fried dessert – but we’re talking dinner here, not sweets. I’ve never tried it, but a friend told me that she just picks up refrigerated pizza dough and makes focaccia out of it. Personally, I don’t like the pizza dough you buy in a whomp tube (you know, you peel the label and whomp it on the edge of the counter), but if you do, try it. It will save you a little time.

So until they come up with a cure for Black Thumb, I guess I’m resigned to using dried herbs a little while longer. Maybe the CDC should look into this. Or maybe I should take a trip to the witch doctor and see if she can lift the curse.

Recipe: Rosemary Focaccia Bread


  1. You probably won't want to hear this, but Rosemary is one of the hardest herbs to kill! It's drought tolerant. So you could plant one and ignore it. It's a great herb, I bet it was wonderful in the fococcia!

  2. PAH HA! OGT - my favourite new acronym!

    Well, here's news for you: I also have a black thumb (vale and God speed to all the gardenia bushes I've murdered), and herbs are just about the only things I cannot kill. They are easy, easy, easy, and all they ask for, most of the time, is sun. Gina is right: rosemary is right up the with the easiest. You don't even need a plant to get it started. Next time you see a rosemary bush, just snip off a cutting, get it home, and stick it in the ground somewhere sunny. No need to strike it in water first, and indeed, it seems to do better if you don't strike it first. Give it a go. What's the worst that can happen? The rosemary will die and dead rosemary is just another word for dried rosemary.

  3. Love the recipe :)
    I know sth about not being able to grow plants ;) but herbs survive even my attempts :) Try growing them in the small pots in your kitchen or on the window still and you will save loads of fresh herbs :)

  4. that is some great looking focaccia! fresh herbs do make a difference though, but in a pinch homemade focaccia with dried herbs is better than store bought focaccia!

  5. I've even killed rosemary! sigh. The pot of herbs on my patio is certainly not due to my gardening skills.
    The focaccia looks wonderful!

  6. I laughed out loud as I was reading about your "Black thumb." I am the same way! Have tried to grow herbs with NO success. However, about a week ago I tried an experiment. I have heard that if you buy green onions in the store and put them in a glass with water, they will keep growing and you'll always have green onions. So I did this and at first it looked terrible, like it was dead, but yesterday, there were new shoots on it! Today there were even more! So that's one thing I can grow. It is good to know there are other black thumbs out there using dried herbs like me!

  7. You should do what we do - join an organic co-op. Sure, you have to do some work but leave the actual farming to the can still claim to have "grown" that beautiful heirloom and 60 other people worked together to grow it...

  8. Hi Scott! well either way.. I just love that you are frugal and know how to spend your $$ wisely... my wine consumption has been going up... hence the cost, so I hear you about having to balance it all out.... the focaccia looks fab... I would eat it in a sec. - Megan