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Elevate flatbread with local cheese

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By guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes

There's something intensely satisfying about flatbread. It's not just the snap between the teeth. Some of the satisfaction comes before the stuff hits the table.

It's a terrific base for kitchen play; toppings can make the flatbread as tart, sweet, salty or spicy as you like. It has much of the satisfaction of deep-dish pizza - but it's easier to take flatbread in fat- and calorie-sane portions.

Flatbread is something more readily associated with Europe than with the deep south, but chef Scott Maki of Rambla, 217 Camp St. in New Orleans, is happy to bring all traditions to the plate. One of his most popular flatbreads features homemade fig jam, flecks of Valdeon cheese and hand-torn Serrano ham. Crisp, soft, sweet, salt, fat ... these slim portions are anything but lean on taste and texture. 7:2 Frost  Fresh Figs.jpg

If you want to bypass the Valdeon buy local, the Green City Market has cheesy options that Lyle Allen, the market's executive director, recommends.

With more than 100 years in the cheese business, Brunkow Cheese of Wisconsin has a fine line of artisan cheeses and a deservedly loyal following.

Goat's milk cheese plays well with figs. On Saturdays at the market, look for Capriole Farmstead Goat Cheese. "Judith Schad is an icon in the cheese world," Allen says. "Her goat cheese is really special."

Saxon Homestead Creamery is new to the Market, and Allen says they use only artisan-crafting methods.

As to the fig jam, Maki has made it with fresh figs and with dried, so this flatbread is in season all year 'round.

Recipe after the jump.

Fig Flatbread with Serrano Ham and Valdeon cheese

MAKES 2 TO 4 SERVINGS

2 ounces fig jam (recipe follows)
2 ounces Serrano ham, sliced very thin
1 1/2 ounces Valdeon
4 ounces flatbread dough (recipe follows)
Parsley to garnish

For the jam:
10 medium-sized figs (brown or mission), stems removed, halved
1 cup of granulated sugar
¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
Water
Place the figs, sugar and vinegar in a pot and add water to cover. Cook on a simmer until the figs are very tender and the water has reduced by about half.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the figs to a food processor.

Puree the figs and slowly add the remaining cooking liquid until they reach a smooth spreadable texture. Amount of liquid will vary. Set aside.

For the dough:

½ teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups cold water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Combine all dry ingredients except for the salt in a stand mixer and begin to mix slowly with a dough hook attachment. Add the olive oil and slowly add the water until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and begins to form a ball on the dough hook. Add salt and mix for 8 to 10 minutes. The amount of water needed may vary slightly depending on environment.

Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until it has doubled in volume. Punch down and weigh out a 4 ounce portion and roll into a ball. Roll the dough out to an oblong shape about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Spread a thin layer of fig jam all around the dough. Crumble the Valdeon cheese on top and bake at 500 degrees until crispy (8 to 10 minutes).

When finished baking, top the flatbread with thinly sliced pieces of Serrano ham and garnish with some chopped parsley. Slice and serve.

Chef Scott Maki

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by Janet Rausa Fuller published on September 2, 2009 11:57 AM.

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