May 16, 2011

Something to Chew On

This has been the highlight of my week so far. I think that homemade croutons soaking up homemade vinaigrette should be the highlight of everyone’s week.

I don’t think there are many things that pack as big of a punch as panzanella does for how easy it is. It’s almost a no-cook meal. Almost. You have to fry up the croutons in a frying pan. But, you also get to pick at those croutons as they cook. And I say that makes it worth it. (Note: homemade croutons are delicious on their own; you don’t need to make panzanella out of them.)

Yes, this was a delightful dinner. But there is a large opportunity for improvement. Next time I will add some shredded chicken so that I fill up on more than 10,000 huge chunks of soaky, yummy bread.

This salad is the closest thing any of us in Minnesota have gotten to spring or summer yet this year. I’ve been craving serious colors in my food.

Can you tell that I have a somewhat negative outlook on things this week? That I’m in a funk?

In the first paragraph, what I really wanted to say wasn’t that this panzanella was the highlight of my week because it was so dang good. It was good, don’t take me wrong, but it was the highlight of my week so far because I’m in a funk.

In the third paragraph, what I really wanted to say was that eating all of that bread, between the 10,000 huge soaky, yummy chunks and the pieces I stole from the frying pan, gave me such a bad stomach ache that I’m wondering if I have a gluten sensitivity like my mom.

And in the fourth paragraph, what I really wanted to say was that up until yesterday (in the middle of May, mind-you) we haven’t had spring yet in Minnesota and this girl is sick. Of. It.

Phew, thank you for letting me get that off my chest.

Turns out this panzanella was probably really good for me. The pastor at the church I went to as a kid used to say that he gave people extra big pieces of bread at communion if he thought they had some thinking to do over their chewing. So, panzanella was probably a good thing for me this week. It gave me lots to chew on. Literally. Figuratively.

No worries, I’m fine. I’ll snap out.

In the meantime, you’ll like this recipe even if you’re not Ms Crabby Pants like I am this week. It’s from my friend Ina.

Panzanella (Adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten)

For the salad:

1.5 tbsp olive oil
3 cups French bread or French boule cut into 1-inch chunks
½ tsp salt
1 tomato, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cucumber, seeds removed, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
½ red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
½ yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
10 large basil leaves, chopped
1.5 tbsp capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1.5 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ cup good olive oil
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh pepper

Heat oil in large frying pan. Add bread cubes and salt, stir to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until browned but not hard.

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.

In large bowl, assemble vegetables, basil, and capers. Add croutons. Pour vinaigrette over top. Stir. Let sit about 20 minutes. Serve.

Serves 3 as main dish.

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