Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I find it appropriate that Panzanella is the first thing I made in my New York kitchen. After a week-long restaurant binge that could rival my best vacation eating on record (Cookshop, Tipsy Parson, Crema Restaurante, Oyster Bar, Bleecker Street Pizza, Txikito, Shake Shack, a culinary tour through Chinatown, and Otto Enotecca) I needed to slow down and make a simple and affordable dish.
Panzanella is considered peasant food in Italy. At least it was when the salad was created as a way to use up stale bread. A bit of a peasant myself these days (no paycheck in site and a culinary education to pay for) I am trying to take on my own waste-not-want-not mentality. Rather than discarding stale bread, I can chop it up, sauté it with a little olive oil and garlic and toss it with some chopped vegetables already on hand. It means lunch is thrown together without running out for additional ingredients. Simply put, Panzanella is delicious and makes me feel good about my grocery budget. Added bonus? I do not have to preheat my oven in the sweltering New York heat.
I ate this salad right away, but it gets even better after a few hours as the flavors meld together.
Next up – finding ways to use up mounds of julienned carrots without turning on my oven. Practicing my knife skills at home, where there is no industrial pot of chicken stock waiting at the ready for my carrot donations, may turn me orange from carrot consumption.
7-inch long piece of baguette (multigrain or other)
3 T of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, smashed and skin removed
6 baby roma tomatoes (or 2 regular roma tomatoes, roughly chopped)
2 oz buffalo mozzarella
2 t balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Cut the baguette into 1-inch chunks. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and fry the garlic clove for one minute. Add the bread and salt liberally. Reduce heat to medium and sauté until bread is crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes. While the bread is cooking, peel the cucumber and chop into 1-inch pieces. Cut the tomatoes into quarters. When the bread is crisp, place it in a medium bowl along with the cucumber and tomatoes. Using your hands, rip the mozzarella into small pieces and add to the bowl. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar and remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the bread mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.