Panzanella, for a sweltering summer
I'm living for my Northern California vacation. Temperatures dropped from their record highs earlier in the week — it's only in the 90s now. Ninety-something degrees Fahrenheit plus the sweet kiss of humidity that causes profuse sweating after 5 minutes outdoors. I plow through it, but I'm generally miserable.
An attitude adjustment is in order.
My CSA produce box helps a bit. Each Wednesday is a little like Christmas. I enter the (cool, clean) walk-in refrigerator at Foster's Market to pick up my share of goodies, thinking about what I'll create with the contents. After walking the dogs near the market yesterday (dogs is plural — I'm caring for my brother-in-law's sweet black lab this week), we piled in the car, fresh veggies in tow, and headed home. Under Gus and Jenny's watchful gaze, I made panzanella, the Italian bread salad that's perfect for summer. No oven or multiple saucepans needed — just a sharp knife, heavy cutting board, and a mixing bowl.
Panzanella is peasant food, a dish that makes use of leftovers, a no-waste option that's not only delicious, but makes you feel virtuous to boot. Basil and tomatoes from the produce box joined leftover ciabatta from the weekend's romesco sauce. Softened by liquid, the bread cubes absorb the flavors that surround them. Cucumber adds crunch, the onions are a bit pungent — the result is a refreshing option for yet another sweltering summer day. This is intended to be served as a side dish, but some of us consume more than one helping and call it dinner.
Serves 4 as a side dish
4 cups of stale ciabatta, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3-4 ripe tomatoes, cubed
1 small red onion, sliced
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
16 or more basil leaves, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
Place ciabatta cubes in a large bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil and red wine vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, toss gently to combine, taste for seasoning, and serve.