Monday, September 6, 2010

Panzanella

I've been on vacation for two weeks (more about that to come), but in the time we've been gone, the harvest season has come into full swing. There is so much wonderful produce in my garden and at the farmers' market that I'm bursting with recipes to post on the blog!

One of my favorite summer/fall dishes is panzanella, or bread salad. I know it sounds weird, but all I can say is, it's good. Just try it.  It's the simplest thing in the world, but it's only good if you use the freshest, ripest, juiciest tomatoes right off the vine. Don't use Roma-type tomatoes, because they're not juicy enough – they are paste tomatoes, meant for making sauces. And don't refrigerate tomatoes – it ruins the texture.


My tomato plants got a late start this year, so they're just now starting to produce, and the first ones ready are Rio Grande, a Roma-type that does really well in our climate - they have a dry texture just like a Roma, but they're much bigger! We're still waiting for our heirlooms to really get going - I think we've got a German Green or a Black Krim out there. One of them got the curly top virus, but I can't remember which - probably the Black Krim, because we always seem to have trouble with it, but it's our favorite. But we've been buying all kinds of juicy heirloom varieties at the farmers' market - I got a giant yellow Pineapple tomato this week from Jesse at Amyo Farms, some beautiful pink Ponderosas from Seth at Vida Verde a few weeks ago, and some fabulous deep red Beefsteaks from a couple of gals who came to the market for just a few weeks to sell nothing but tomatoes!


1 pound perfectly ripe tomatoes
2 C. diced stale bread (¾ inch chunks)
3 Tbs best-quality olive oil
1-2 Tbs balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
2 Tbs chopped sweet onion
2 Tbs thinly sliced fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Dice the tomatoes and put them in a bowl, with all their juice. Gently but thoroughly, mix in all the rest of the ingredients. The bread should soak up the tomato juice, oil and vinegar and become mostly soft, but it's nice if it still has a little bit of crunch. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to mingle, and enjoy!
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