Thursday, August 5, 2010
This is the time of year when we are plucking ripe tomatoes from the vine just about every day, but we are not yet in buckets-full for sauces or canning. There is nothing better than a sliced tomato, warm from the garden, with just a sprinkling of sea salt and a grind of pepper. I often stand at the counter after coming in from the garden, sampling the tomatoes (I love to grow new varieties every year).
As the early weeks go on, I make tomato salads, add tomatoes to dinner, toss together small batches of salsa, and of course start to make panzanella. A Panzenella uses good stale bread, which just soaks up the flavors and cuts the acidity of the tomatoes. It is a perfect summer salad.
To make the 'croutons':
I use bread that is hard - usually a French baguette, or a nice Italian rustic loaf. Slice the bread, lightly coat in olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and toast in a toaster oven for 5 or so minutes. When out of the toaster, cut into cubes (if you don't have a toaster oven, a regular oven set to 350ºF is fine). If you can cut your bread into cubes from the start - go for it. I find that baguettes in particular can be hard to cut when stale, and the toasting with olive oil makes them crispy, but easier to cut.
2 large or 3-4 medium slicing tomatoes, cubed
1 small mild onion, very thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
3 cups of croutons
3-4 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
5 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt & pepper to taste
10-15 basil leaves - depending on how big/variety of basil you have, sliced
a few sprigs of parsley, chopped
Make your croutons. While they are in the toaster, cut your tomatoes, garlic and onions and put into a large bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt to get the tomato juices going. Add the balsamic and olive oil. When the croutons are out of the toaster and have cooled, toss them in with the bowl of ingredients. Make sure you toss/stir for a few minutes, to be sure that the croutons are evenly coated in the tomato/oil/vinegar mix. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Let sit for about 10 minutes, stirring here and there. Add the parsley and basil and stir. Taste, and add more salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately!
Other good additions to a panzanella:: sliced cucumber or peppers.
This is not an exact recipe - depending on how big or how juicy your tomatoes are you can tweak how much vinegar/oil you add to get your bread to soak it up nicely. It should soak in fully, but not have a lot of standing liquid. If your tomatoes are small or more meaty than juicy, just add an extra one!