I have been making this focaccia several times a week since we got back from Sicily in September, not because I needed to refine it (because it actually came out great the first time) but because it is so perfect. I let the dough rise about an hour before baking and that gives it a lovely, pillowy height. The way that the eggplant bakes onto the dough causes it to nearly caramelize and the combination of that with the softened red onions, and ricotta is heavenly. This focaccia, cut into 6 slices with a sprinkle of Parmesan and oregano is to me, a perfect meal for two.
Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Difficulty level: Easy
Serves: 2 - 4 (depending on if you’re serving it as an app or your main meal)
Baking sheet (preferably one with rimmed edges, I use a 1/2 sheet pan)
1 portion (1 lb) of pre-made pizza dough (I usually just buy from the store)
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil
1 small eggplant, sliced into 1/4’’ thick slices
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 small or 1/2 of a large red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 - 2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 - 2 tablespoons raw pistachios
Coarse sea salt
Let’s do it!
Generously coat your baking sheet with olive oil, place your ball of dough on the sheet, then flip it over so both sides are coated with olive oil and then gently start to spread the dough out on the sheet. Leave it to rise for 45 minutes. Note: you won’t be able to stretch it to reach all the way to the edge, mine ends up in an oblong oval-ish shape usually. This just for the preliminary rise so you can beautify the shape later.
After 45 minutes, turn your oven on to 450 degrees. Check in on your dough. It should feel lighter and easier to spread, so stretch it further to the edges of the pan but don’t over work it. It doesn’t have to fill the pan since it will expand when it bakes
Next, saute your eggplant. Generously coat a medium frying pan with olive oil and bring it to a medium high heat. Working in batches of about 6 slices, fry the eggplant for 2 - 3 minutes per side, until they become light- golden brown. They’re going to cook more when the focaccia bakes, so they really just need to be softened at this step. You will need to keep adding olive oil between batches because the eggplant soaks up a lot of it! Transfer them to a paper towel lined plate or baking sheet once they’ve been fried.
Lastly, add another coating of olive oil to the pan and saute the red onions for 2- 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes (being very careful not to brown the garlic, you just need to lightly saute it).
To prepare the focaccia, evenly sprinkle the red pepper flakes, a liberal amount of sea salt and about a tablespoon of dried oregano on the dough. Next, distribute the sauteed onions and garlic and the residual oil all over the dough. Then intermix layers of eggplant slices with the halved tomatoes. Finish the focaccia by sprinkling the pistachios, and another liberal helping of sea salt.
Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until the outsides of the focaccia are dark golden brown. Remove from oven and distribute a handful of dollups of ricotta all over. Bake again for 3 - 5 minutes to finish.
Remove from oven and place focaccia directly on a wire cooling rack so that it doesn’t get stuck to your baking sheet or get soggy.
To serve, sprinkle with the remaining dried oregano, Parmesan and more sea salt to taste.