CELEBRATE LATE SUMMER WITH PANZANELLA

It happens to me every year around this time.  I start getting tired of summer produce.  (I feel guilty saying it; please understand.)  But I’m not yet willing to switch to apple pie, apple quick breads, and everything and anything made with cinnamon.  So this morning I glanced (with just a hint of annoyance) at the lineup of produce on my kitchen counter from yesterday’s farmers’ market and wondered what to do with it all.

Here’s yesterday’s catch:

one truly masterful, locally made 3-grain French Country Batard
several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, including heirloom cherry tomatoes
one small, dirt-covered red onion
one big bunch of bright-green basil, since my own is raggedy this late in the season
one bottle of white wine crafted by a local vineyard

In summer I always have on hand great-quality EVOO*, and red wine and balsamic vinegars, so I decided to make Panzanella, the one summer salad I haven’t already put together.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any quantity of the ingredients you wish, and you can add or subtract the extra ingredients to your liking, since no one likes to be told what to do this late in the summer!

Basic Ingredients:

mixed varieties of summer tomatoes
boule or baguette of whole grain french or other rustic bread, cut into bite-sized chunks
EVOO
good quality red wine or balsamic vinegar, or a combination of the two
red onion, sliced and halved
fresh basil, julienned, chopped, or torn
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1.  Cut the bread as directed above.  To add some crunch, you can toast it by sauteing it in EVOO over med-low flame for 5-10 minutes. Un-toasted bread, on the other hand, works well to soak up the oil, vinegar, and tomato juices, so it’s your choice.  One or two-day old bread is preferable but not necessary.

2. Assemble all ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to blend flavors.  (Sip some of the wine while waiting.)

3. Here are some add-ins that work well: crumbles of cheese such as feta, goat, or ricotta salata, calamata olives, quartered beets, slices of white nectarines or peaches, kernels of left-over fresh corn, stripped from the cob.

* EVOO is the abbreviation of Extra Virgin Olive OIl

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