Unlike the crusts that are on the thinner side for our pizzas you typically find here, this focaccia needs a thicker base with extra rising time. When we stretch out our dough for other pizza recipes, they can be topped immediately (or pre-baked if need be) and go into the oven without wait. In this recipe, once I finessed the dough into a rough rectangle, I swept it off the counter and set it on a baking sheet to rise in a warm place (the cabinet directly above our refrigerator!) until it had started to look puffy.
To give the dough a golden tone and touch of richness, I smeared olive oil over every nook and cranny I could find, which also left the dough tacky enough to accept a couple seasonings. Dried basil (which you must crush in your fingers first to release its fragrance!) was sprinkled on first, then came a few pinches of coarse salt. Halves of juicy red grapes were maniacally strewn over the squishy dough, which opened the door for us us to add the remaining two ingredients - fresh rosemary and just enough fresh grated Romano cheese for a sharp contrast.
Once in the oven and you've set your timer, you may want to take a quick peek a couple minutes before it goes off to see how it's coming along. Because the grapes have quite a bit of sugar in them, they will begin to caramelize and you don't want them to darken too much. When the focaccia is done, the crust will have become shiny and golden, with the roasted grapes on top becoming soft and even more juicy. Right as we took this out of the oven, a bit of decadence was added by drizzling on a favorite extra-virgin olive oil for a lovely fruity finish.
The aromatic punch of the rosemary on this focaccia was enough to seduce anyone in a close radius to come give this curious dish a try. Remember that oil we covered the dough to begin with? This gave the focaccia a crispness to its exterior, yet left the inside soft with a welcome chew to it. With plenty of intensified sweetness in the grapes to offset the salty bite on the crust, this was such a fine way to start off our weekend with a delicious meal. While I would definitely make this again just for us to have, I know I'll keep this recipe handy to serve as a swanky appetizer when we happen to have guests in the house!
Grape and Rosemary Focaccia