Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: The Occasional (Repeated) Recipe: Panzanella

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

The Occasional (Repeated) Recipe: Panzanella

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I think the time is right to re-run a past blog post in which I gave a recipe for the Italian bread-and-tomato salad panzanella. After all, it’s the end of August. Farm markets are still open and vegetable gardens are filled with seasonal bounty: there are tomatoes out there, folks.  Made it last night but instead of French bread, I used white bread I had baked.

In case you’re impressed, you should know that the bread recipe I use is as easy as all my other recipes. Takes no longer to mix together than it takes to describe. It’s my dumbed down version of this.  Mix together in a bowl:

            1 ½ c. warm water—pretty warm but not hot
            ½ Tbsp. kosher salt
            ½ Tbsp. yeast
            3 cups flour

Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise 2-5 hours. Put it in a greased loaf pan and let it rise again, about 20 minutes or so, then bake 30 minutes in 450 degree oven. You can also after the first rising, refrigerate it a few days, then bring it to room temperature, let it rise in loaf pan, and bake. I also make this with half or a third whole wheat and often with the addition of toasted walnuts and sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds. Or other goodies.

And here’s the panzanella recipe I originally posted:

In mid-summer it’s hard to avoid coming home from the farm markets without too much of something that looked delicious. My downfall is tomatoes. Off-season I don’t buy fresh tomatoes: the world is too filled with heartbreak as it is. So during the summer I tend to go a little overboard. Ok, a lot overboard.

On this particular day I had beautiful ripe tomatoes and was thinking of panzanella, that summery Italian bread salad. It seemed easy enough...some tomatoes...some bread...olive oil.....let’s see.  I looked through my three shelves of cookbooks: nothing. (Really, “Nigellissima”?? Really, “VB6”??) I looked online: too much. Too many ingredients, serving too many people. Maybe in the summer you’re always suppose to be cooking for a crowd. Tonight I’m cooking for two. So, as often happens--admittedly, not always with marvelous results--I made up a recipe. And I’m sharing it with you as I made it. No specific amounts, no specific proportions--you’re in charge. I’m just telling you there are ripe tomatoes out there--go make panzanella.

What you need:
tomatoes
red onion
basil
cucumbers
dried cubes of French bread
olive oil
salt/pepper

I cut the tomatoes, bread, and cucumber in nice-size chunks; you can do the same depending on your idea of nice size. I cut some red onion in smaller pieces, because that’s what I prefer. I added a little olive oil and salt and pepper. I tore a bunch of basil leaves. Not “a bunch” as in what Whole Foods puts in a rubber band, but a “bunch” as in what my plants were offering and what I thought looked like a good amount.  I tossed it all and took a moment to enjoy how it reminded me of the Italian flag. And then I set it aside in a (non-metallic) bowl for a few hours. Do not refrigerate it. Refrigeration does terrible things to tomatoes.

At this very moment it is still in progress, the tomatoes’ juices and the olive oil doing their magic on the bread cubes. I plan to taste a little throughout the afternoon because the one amount I was unsure of was the olive oil. But I’m thinking this is going to be very good. And I’m hoping that if you find something that could make it better, you’ll let me know.


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