Thursday, May 6, 2010

my love of all things bread

one of my all time favorite dishes to recommend to potential clients is a panzanella salad. panzanella is a tuscan salad made with crunchy bread, tomatoes, onions, vinegar, & olive oil.  you can add any vegetables, cheese, spices you want to tailor it to your liking.  late spring & summer is my favorite time of year to make this salad. this is a recipe for my favorite one, which has a taste of spain in it.

what you'll need:
italian bread (preferably ciabatta, but can be any bread you like)
heirloom tomatoes
red onion
english peas
manchego cheese
sherry vinegar
good quality extra virgin olive oi

vegetable peeler
mixing bowl
bread knife
japanese mandoline (or sharp knife)
baking sheet
parchment paper

how we do it:
heat oven to 375. with the bread knife, cut the ciabatta into crouton sized pieces about 1" square. lay cut bread flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  drizzle bread with olive oil, salt & fresh ground pepper.  cook in the oven until bread is crunchy. let cool. this can be made several days in advance. you can also let the bread sit out and get stale instead of baking it. or just use old stale bread!! (preferably not moldy)

obviously fresh peas are terrific for this but if you cant find fresh peas, use organic frozen ones. if you do find fresh peas, put a small pot of water on the stove with a good amount of salt. it should taste like sea water. bring the water to a boil, drop in the fresh peas and blanch for 30-45 seconds depending on how crunchy you like them. once they are ready strain them out of the water and put immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and preserve the beautiful green color. once they are cold, remove from the ice water and lay on paper towels to dry.

dice the heirloom tomatoes so they are about the same size as the croutons. if you happen to find heirloom baby tomatoes, you can cut them in halves and quarters.  

pick & clean the basil leaves, then tear them apart with your hands. size is not terribly important but you dont want it to overpower the other ingredients.

cut the ends off of the red onion, peel the outer paper and cut in half through the ends.  if you have a mandoline shave the onion as thin as you can. if not, use a sharp knife and slice as thinly as possible. 

next, take the vegetable peeler, and peel slices of manchego.

now that you have al the ingredients ready, put the crunchy bread in a large mixing bowl with the tomatoes, & red onion. add a little sherry vinegar to taste. everybody's preferred acidity varies so i tend to go on the lighter side. add some extra virgin olive oil, and toss the ingredients together. you dont want to the ingredients to be swimming in liquid.  let this sit for about 20-30 minutes so the bread soaks up the flavors but still has some crunch to it. 

now add the peas, most of the torn basil leaves, and half the shaved manchego.  toss together and serve in individual pasta bowls as a first course, or on a platter for a family style meal.  strew some basil leaves and manchego on top for garnish. voila!!! tasty summery panzanella sald.  

other seasonal ingredients i like for this:
brussel sprouts
feta cheese
fava beans


Merci New York said...

oh yum! this sounds de-lish!