Airy focaccia bread is seasoned with a favorite Italian cheese and dried rosemary in this Homemade Rosemary Romano Focaccia recipe.
It was a chilly June day when I stepped through the doorway of what would become our first home in Maine. Ahead of me was my real estate agent who ushered me down to the full basement, with its big open space and washer/dryer hookups, and back up again. We walked through the living room, where carpet installers were pulling and stretching padding over nail strips. The stairs to the second floor were bare, and they told us to use caution, something that sparked internal amusement since I was wearing open toed shoes and turning out my toes like Estelle taught me to in my years of ballet training in upstate New York.
Upstairs, I peeked in closets and spun around in the bathroom. It was less space then we’d ever had. But it was cozy, and enough for my two children and myself.
Downstairs, the tired kitchen cabinets looked sad to me. A roll of carpet and more padding waiting to be installed sat on the floor, but there was still plenty of room to walk. Age aside, it was a big kitchen with room for my stand mixer and cooking.
I wasn’t ready to commit though. After weeks of combing property management listings, I had found several places that I wanted to see. This was only the first one.
That day we visited several other rentals, one just around the corner and another near a park. I opened closets, pictured us in each, sniffed the air. I looked out windows, and wondered if this was just too much change.
Finally, I told her I wanted to see the first place again. We made an appointment for the next afternoon, and then I returned to my hotel and cried. I had only a few weeks before the kids and I would pack everything into a moving van and roll north. I had only a few days to find a place to live before heading back to Connecticut.
The next day brought school visits and long conversations with educators. I wasn’t just there to find a home, but also to select schools for the kids. There were tours and discussions of where we were coming from. I asked curriculum questions and tried to avoid security discussions. Finally, in late afternoon, I returned to that first rental and silently walked through again. The new carpet looked pristine. The fresh paint was so crisp. And in the kitchen, my heart whispered that I could sacrifice newer cabinets for the space and storage it offered. I’d be able to put our kitchen table in the kitchen, and a kitchen island. There would be room for shelves, and the owner was installing a new stove.
Sure, there was no dishwasher and I wouldn’t be able to choose that stove. But I could bring our laundry machines and wash clothes right there. And there would be space for us to spread out and dig into life in Maine. So I signed the application, wrote the check for the security deposit and handed over the application fee, picturing us in that space. I could practically smell the fragrant yeast blooming for breads. It was all like a giant release, a breath that relaxed every muscle that I’d held so tight.
Ten months later, I don’t notice the worn exterior of the cabinets anymore. Yes, they are tired and old, but they fit my extensive collection of spices, salts, dried herbs and oils, as well as all my cookware and plates. Not having a dishwasher isn’t easy, but together with the kids I can wish dishes by hand with good efficiency. And ultimately, the space of the kitchen is everything I’d hoped it would be. Our round table sits near the door, perfect for early morning breakfasts and evening dinners.
The kitchen island — the one that sat in a garage for a year and that I tried to sell unsuccessfully just before moving –provides the necessary extra room to test recipes, to create and to cook with the kids. That’s where I tested recipes for my cookbook, and where I write checks for activities for the kids. It’s also where dough rises for everything from homemade pizza to this recipe for focaccia.
I’ve added shelves to store extra kitchen gadgets and our snacks. And by the door hangs our family calendar, where I keep track of our commitments.
The little townhouse is just the space we needed.
- 1 ⅓ cups warm water
- 1 (¼-oz) package dry active yeast
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, , softened
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, , plus additional for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
- fresh ground pepper
- In a small bowl, add the warm water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit for 6-7 minutes, until the yeast foams. Stir well.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together the flour, butter, salt, rosemary and the yeast mixture. Allow to mix for about 10 minutes, until the dough is elastic-y.
- Turn the dough out into a bowl sprayed with cooking oil spray, and turn to coat. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in a cool, dry place to rise for 1 hour.
- Brush a 9x13-inch rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread dough out on the sheet press with fingers to dimple all over. Brush with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and grated romano cheese. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise an additional 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden.
- Let cool slightly before removing from the pan and cutting into pieces. Serve warm.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.