Ah, yes. The lazy, hazy days of summer. Here on the homestead, we've started harvesting....weeds, I'm afraid. Without even trying, I am capable of growing the biggest, healthiest weeds you can imagine and they're out there...ripe for the plucking, something I've been doing a lot of lately. : )
Apart from the weeds, there are many parts of summer I truly do enjoy, in particular, an evening BBQ. Sitting out on the deck, a glass of something icy cold, good friends, great conversation... We had an evening just like that a few nights ago.
Although we didn't start out with this in mind, dinner had a bit of an Italian theme. I promised to bring a salad and decided to try...
This, everyone, is a “summer perfect”, take-a-long salad...
From Jamie Oliver's magazine article:
"This was probably an invention of necessity," says Fifteen London's executive chef Andrew Parkinson."Italians waste nothing and this salad utilises stale bread. Originating in the areas of Tuscany, Umbria and the Marche, panzanella is first recorded in 16th-century literature, though without the tomatoes as they weren't part of the Italian kitchen then. It's a lovely summer dish - the bread soaks up the oil and vinegar, also taking in the ripe tomato juices, and you can ring the changes by adding any seasonal vegetables you like."
Panzanella is more an idea than a recipe. If you really need specifics, Simply Recipes can get you started. It's not just about tomatoes and stale bread, however. What else do you have in the kitchen? All Recipes adds mozzarella and balsamic vinegar. Dinner with Julie turns Panzanella into a full meal with hard-boiled eggs and tuna. Jamie Oliver even has a Chicken Panzanella.
Some basic “rules”?
1. Since bread is a feature of this recipe, use an Italian Ciabetta or a French loaf. Cut so each bread cube has a bit of crust.
2. Use equal amounts bread and tomatoes. I used about six cups of each and needed about 1 cup of dressing.
3. Dressing: 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 cloves minced garlic.
4. In addition to bread and heirloom tomatoes, add about 1/3 of a thinly sliced red onion and a good handful of roughly chopped basil.
5. Other vegetables? Yes, please, but remember bread and tomatoes are the stars here. I added some cucumber. Thin slices of yellow pepper would be colourful.
This salad transports well and you don't need to worry about keeping it cold – perfect for a “take-a-long”.
PS Can't forget to mention another Italian aspect of that night's meal. Our hostess made Panna Cotta! Click on the photograph for a video. I plan to make this next week!