Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October Surprise: Ina Garten's Panzanella

I know what you're thinking. Panzanella? In October? Yup! For some reason I thought that tomato season would be over by summer's end. But our CSA pick-up last week contained gorgeous beefsteak, heirloom and golden tomatoes. We also got basil leaves, red onions and red peppers...so this was kind of a no-brainer.
Originally I was thinking about making a salsa or using the tomatoes in a soup, but after I unintentionally left a baguette unwrapped the night before, I knew it was time for some panzanella.
Panzanella comes from the Latin word panis, or "bread." Like most crouton and bread crumb recipes, you really have to use stale (hard) bread.  Fresh bread can't absorb all the flavors from the panzanella vinaigrette- and if left for a short while, it will turn into mush.  In contrast, days-old bread can stand up to the liquid and maintain its integrity. And this way, even that old bread is put to good use (what's that saying, "waste not, want not..."
Panzanella (Courtesy of Ina Garten)
You can mix and match tomato sizes and varieties.  
Adjust seasoning accordingly.

1 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 of a French Baguette or Boule bread (about 3 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large, red, ripe tomato, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small, red, ripe tomato, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small golden tomato, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (you could also use yellow pepper)
1/2 of a small red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
10 basil leaves, chiffonade or coursely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:
1 small clove of finely minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan.  Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Add more oil as needed.
For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, red pepper, red onion, basil, and capers.  Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Allow the salad to sit for at least an hour at room temperature.

and without capers...(and a nice little bowl).
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