Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Summer's Last Hurrah - Panzanella Anyone?

Picture perfect and good enough to eat!

A written daily post is a possible thing. A daily post, complete with photo may be more than I can handle right now. Digital camera proficiency has eluded my grasp so far. In fact, I probably peaked somewhere around the Polaroid Swinger and Kodak Instamatic era. When I visit other blogs and food sites, the dazzling pictures of beautiful food make me crave a bite. No telling when or if I'll ever be able to do any recipe justice in that same way, even though I'm studying with a more experienced photographer. Soon I hope to add regular documentary proof that I can cook just like my fellow bloggers, or that I have a lovely herb garden. In the meantime, my favorite husband is helping me out when he can with the pictures you see here.

Over the weekend we gathered some beautiful vegetables and a crusty loaf of bread for our favorite late summer treat, Panzanella. Much has already been written about Panzanella by bloggers. It is, after all, the logical choice for an over abundance of summer produce. My personal favorite recipe for this Italian classic is from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook. I think what I like best about her version is the tangy vinaigrette. I usually adapt the ingredients to suit what I have on hand from the local farmer's market or neighbor's garden, but I like the simplicity of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Choose your homegrown favorites and add Ina's dressing to the mix to savor summer's last hurrah.

adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten
3 tbsp. or more Olio Santo or other good olive oil
1 loaf dense French bread, cut or torn into bite-size peices
kosher salt
2 or more large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-in. chunks
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-in. chunks
1 large red, green, and/or yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1-in. chunks
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
small bunch of basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 - 1 tsp. finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. Olio Santo or other good olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Heat enough oil to cover surface of a large pan. Add the bread; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently for about 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. More oil may be needed to coat bread cubes. Remove bread cubes to paper towel or brown paper and salt lightly.

Whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl large enough to hold all the salad ingredients. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, basil and bread cubes to the blended vinaigrette and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand, at room temperature, for about 30 minutes (or longer, if necessary) for the flavors to blend before serving. Excellent for a light supper with grilled chicken, fish, or shrimp and a fresh fruit dessert!


Anonymous said...

Dear Cora,

You are absolutely amazing! The story is wonderful and the writing, of course, superb. At middle age I am cooking less and less but Margaret and husband Manning are wonderful cooks. We were in DC for Labor Day and took an amazing picnic to Wolftrap. All contributed--Margaret and Manning, Roger and Gayle, and Caroline.

Cora said...

Thanks for your encouragement! Remember, it's not how often you cook, but enjoying the food and the company when you do. Love to all of you and Bon appetit!