It's been a quiet summer for the two of us. We stuck pretty close to home, busy tending to ideas and vegetable beds, hoping that in time they'd flourish. But summer is fast fading, which means that many of our good friends, who've spent the summer away, will be back in town. I'm thinking that it's time that we set aside our spades and worries for a little and think about breaking the quiet, about maybe having a party.
When we do, this flatbread is sure to be a part of it. (If you want to get fancy, this flatbread is technically a Catalan coca of sorts.) It is perfect late-summer party fare--just red pepper, onion, and eggplant cooked down into a luxurious mess, spread out on thin stretches of dough, and then slipped into a hot oven for a scant few minutes. There, the onion especially melts and chars, while the dough blisters and bakes up shatteringly crisp. Cut into squares, it is ready to be passed around.
This flatbread is decidedly unfussy. The dough, though yeasted, is forgiving. I have let it sit out an hour or two longer than it really should have and then stuck extra in the fridge for later use. It held up just fine. You could definitely cook down the vegetables a few hours, maybe a day even, in advance. And with everything prepped, you could easily keep turning out flatbreads with a party in full swing.
Onion, Red Pepper, and Eggplant Coca
Adapted from Sam and Sam Clark's Moro East
112 g / 1 cup bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1/3 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
75 ml / scant 1/3 cup water
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into half-inch cubes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
2 medium Spanish onions, roughly chopped
2 red peppers, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
To make the flatbread dough, place the flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. Stir together the oil and water in a cup. Make a well in the flour and then pour in the water mixture a little at a time, mixing constantly with your hands. When all the yeast mixture has been incorporated, transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead well for at least 5 minutes. If the dough is still stick, add a little more flour; if it is too stiff, a little more water. It is ready when no longer tacky but soft, elastic, and smooth. Put the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and leave to rise until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours. After proofing, it can be chilled until needed. Give it some time to come back to room temperature, about an hour.
For the topping, first toss the eggplant with the salt in a colander and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a heavy, 10-inch sauté pan and, when hot but not smoking, add the onions with a pinch of salt. Give them a good stir and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for 15-20 minutes more, until the onions are golden and sweet and the peppers soft. Be sure to stir them often so they cook evenly and do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Blot the eggplant dry with a towel, add to the pan along with the rosemary, and cook for a final 15 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant is soft all the way through. Remove from heat and rain off any excess oil. Check the seasoning and set aside to cool.
When ready to bake the flatbread, preheat the oven to 525 degrees F (with a baking stone, if you have one). Divide the dough into two and roll out half very thinly to make a 12-inch by 8-inch oblong. If it's being stubborn, cover and let rest for a few minutes for the gluten to relax and then try again. Place it on a peel, if using a baking stone, or on a baking sheet, if not. Spread half the vegetables over the surface, right up to the edges of the dough. Bake for 8-15 minutes (flatbread baked on a stone will take significantly less time), until browned and crispy underneath. While the first flatbread is in the oven, start rolling and topping the next one. They are great served piping hot from the oven or at room temperature.
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.