bits and pieces

Monday, August 19, 2013

Molto bene! Classic Panzanella Salad

toasted day old bread, diced tomatoes, basil and cucumber

I say dinner, you say salad! What??? Salad!!!!!! What?! ?!?!?  SALAD!!!!!!!!!!!

That's right. Dinner salads. Light and full of garden-y goodness, but also full of delicious bread. Panzanella is - like many, many delicious dishes - traditional peasant fare. It's a 'rustic' italian salad which is basically a great great meal, and also an incredibly hand dish to use of the various bits of vegetable and stale bread you have kicking around your house. The veggies are fresh, the bread is crispy, the dressing is tart and bright... the more I think and write about panzanella the more certain I am that this is what's for dinner.

But wait, there's more! Not only is the salad molto, molto bene - it's cheap to make and utilizes all of the weird nonsense you have waiting to go bad in your fridge.

One of the things I hate the most about myself is the amount of food I waste. It's not a lot - but it happens, and I absolutely hate throwing out food because 'whoops, I didn't eat these radishes this week but for some reason I bought them'. Menu planning helps A LOT, but still, there are inevitable casualties in my fridge and it makes me feel like a horribly privileged person just throwing out food when there are so many hungry people in our own community. In Regina's public school system alone, we have around 5000 kids going to school hungry. The more you know.

My white, upper middle class guilt aside, this salad will help you avoid throwing out food, fill your tummy with goodness, remind you of summer, and encourage you to drown your own socio-economic guilt in a large glass of wine. Panzanella is also something fancy, so you can make it and impress your friends, however, it's also a cheap eat. You can feel like a gourmet chef/little italian grandma while spending all of $4 on making the entire salad.

3 cups of roughly cubed french bread (if it's a little bit stale, all the better)
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

2 cups of roma or cherry tomatoes diced or halved
1 cup of cucumber, roughly chopped
1 diced shallot OR 1/4 of a red onion diced and soaked in cold water

optional additions: 1 cup sauteed mushrooms, 1 sliced roasted red pepper, 1/4 cup diced olives, 1 cup roasted zucchini, 2 tbsp capers, shaved bits of that end of parmesan you have, etc, etc. 

1/3 cup of freshly torn basil

dressing ingredients: 
1/3 cup of yummy olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small squirt of mustard
3 tbsp of red wine vinegar
a splash of red wine, if you happen to be drinking it while making this salad :) 
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
a generous helping of fresh black pepper

other things you will need: 
a knife and cutting board
a baking tray
a small bowl and whisk for making your dressing
a large bowl for tossing your bread crumbs
a bowl for your salad

  1. Preheat your oven to 425. 
  2. Toss your bread cubes with the olive oil, ensuring they're realllllllly olive oil-y. Place them on your cookie sheet and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. 
  3. Pop them in the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes until they're getting golden. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  4. Chop all your salad ingredients and toss them together in your big bowl. The great thing about panzanella is it's a fancy and rustic version of 'everything and the kitchen sink'. It's like the chili of salads. Wait. That doesn't sound appetizing. ANYWAY- other than tomatoes and bread, you can really add whatever tickles your fancy and/or whatever is in your fridge and needs to be eaten. 
  5. Put your shallot/red onion in a cup of cold water and allow it to soak for 10 minutes or so. This will take a lot of the bite out of your onion. 
  6. Make your dressing by combining all your dressing ingredients and whisking vigourously. OR if you're like me and save your mason jars, toss all those yummy ingredients into a jar and shake it like a polaroid picture. 
  7. Combine your bread crumbs, salad bits, and dressing and toss joyfully. Top with fresh basil and enjoy. If you can't wait, let it sit for an hour in the fridge. If not.... Buon appetito! 

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