This hearty, rustic bread represents a "best of" compilation of Mediterranean ingredients. Blood oranges (said to have originated in Sicily) combine with Olympian green olives and creamy sheep's-milk feta to form the topping for this not-so-traditional focaccia. Inside, dried mint adds a subtle nod to the Eastern influence found throughout Greece. Although authentic Italian focaccia is most often flat and seasoned simply with olive oil, herbs, and coarse salt (and very good that way, too), I confess a penchant for higher, airier loaves that support creative toppings the way a good deep-dish pizza can, but without the sauce. This focaccia, topped with anti-oxidants, healthy fats, and a protein source, can be thought of as a meal unto itself, or it can be split and used as the base for a deluxe sandwich. Any way you slice it, you'll be satisfied. Look for dried mint in any market with a good stock of Middle Eastern foods. —Allison Cay Parker
1 loaf focaccia (9 x 13 inches)
For the focaccia dough
envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
dried mint (if mint leaves are large, crumble them with your fingers)
(12 ounces) warm water
Cornmeal for dusting the baking dish
For the topping
blood orange segments, all white pith and membranes removed (4-5 oranges)
green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
extra-virgin olive oil, plus a few more tablespoons for drizzling on the focaccia
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
fresh Greek sheep's milk feta, to yield 1 cup crumbled feta
Put 3 cups of the flour in a large bowl with the salt, yeast, dried mint, and oregano. Blend together well with a fork. In a measuring cup, combine the warm water (it should be slightly warmer than skin temperature, not too hot) and the vegetable oil. Incorporate the liquid gradually into the flour mixture.
From here, add in extra flour up to 1 cup, as needed to make a smooth, elastic dough (I ended up using another 1/2 cup, which I added in 1/4-cup increments). Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and give it a few extra kneads. Return the dough to a clean bowl that's been lightly coated with olive oil (you can just rinse out and dry the one you started with), and turn the dough to coat it on all sides. Cover the bowl with a clean, slightly dampened kitchen towel, and set it aside to rest in a warm place for around 45 minutes to 1 hour, until it doubles in size.
While the dough is rising, prepare the topping for the focaccia. Place segmented blood oranges in a bowl with the chopped green olives, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper. Set aside to marinate.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal.
Turn the risen dough out into the dish. If the dough seems too sticky in the bowl, that's OK, just sprinkle some flour on the dough, dust your hands with flour as well, and scrape the dough out and into the baking dish. With a touch more flour on your hands if needed, press and stretch the dough across the bottom of the pan. Cover again with a towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.
When the dough has finished rising, have ready a small bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Dip your fingers in the oil and poke holes in the top of the focaccia. Spread on the blood orange and olive mixture, then top with crumbled feta. Sprinkle the focaccia with a little bit of crushed dried mint and drizzle with the olive oil that remains in the small bowl. Sprinkle on a pinch or two of sea salt.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the focaccia is puffed and nicely browned.
Eat as is, dip into fine olive oil, or slice and use as a base to build a great sandwich. Store extra focaccia in an airtight container at room temperature.