Shopping for free time

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Grilled flatbread

Flatbread topped with salad: Grilled flatbread and a trip to the salad bar save time, deliver taste. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

In the middle of the day I drove to the middle of nowhere, where I had to wait until midafternoon.

If I'd had a stack of novels I might have read one. If I had the ability, I might have written one.

Instead, I went shopping. Middle Nowhere has a massive grocery, stocked with everything.

I had planned to grill flatbread. I had a recipe that called for slicing and salting and marinating and grilling eggplant. It called for crisping onions and cracking olives and chopping parsley and crumbling feta and heaping the mix onto flatbread.

It sounded tasty, if time-consuming.

Rolling the wide aisles of Middle Grocery I found the eggplant. I found the feta. I found the olives, right next to a huge chunk of free time.

The olives — black and green and stuffed — were lounging on Salad Bar Island.

I peeked at the next cabana. There was eggplant, already sliced and salted and marinated and grilled. There was feta, already crumbled.

I paced the perimeter, taking in roasted peppers and marinated artichokes and parsley tomato salad.

All I had to do was scoop up some of this and some of that and my flatbreads were done.

I sped home, pleased to have gained more time than I'd spent.

Grilled flatbread

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 4 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

Flatbread dough (recipe below)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Toppings from the salad bar such as fresh mozzarella balls, pitted olives, tomato/feta salad, fresh spinach, marinated artichoke hearts, eggplant salad, roasted peppers and roasted garlic

Grill:
Light (or spark) a medium-hot fire. Brush rounds of dough lightly with olive oil. Grill flatbreads until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Brush again with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Top:
Let guests heap on their favorite salad-bar finds. Drizzle with olive oil. Chomp.

The Flatbread dough

Prep: 15 minutes
Wait: 2 hours
Makes: 6 small flatbreads

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Proof:
Stir yeast and sugar into water. Let rest until creamy, 5 minutes.

Knead:
Stir in remaining ingredients. Knead (using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or by hand) until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Rest:
Settle dough in a bowl. Cover bowl with plastic and let rest, 1 hour. Dough may not double.

Shape:
Divide dough into 6 balls. Set on an oiled baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let rest, 1 hour.

Roll:
Roll out each ball into a 7-inch circle. Stack up circles, separated by parchment paper. Slide the stack into a plastic bag and refrigerate.

Provenance:
Inspired by chef Zoe Schor of Ada Street restaurant, Chicago.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.

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