Friday, August 2, 2013

Summer Panzanella

Ripening on the vine
This is the salad we've been eating at least once a day since the beginning of tomato season.  It is infinitely adaptable as far as ingredients and amounts go; use what you have and don't sweat it.  Any kind of tomato will work -- we've used cherry tomatoes cut in half, Romas, cracked and oozing overripe farmstand leftovers -- but the best option is, of course, those perfectly vine-ripened, sun-kissed heirloom tomatoes that just aren't the same at any other time of year.  This panzanella is related to the classic Caprese salad, but less fussy, and with a few additional ingredients, including some crusty bread to soak up all those delicious juices at the bottom of the bowl.

from Jake & Emma's kitchen

serves 4 

4 large heirloom tomatoes (or about 2-3 lbs tomatoes of your choice)
1 cucumber
2 sweet peppers of any color
3 scallions OR 1/2 small sweet onion
about 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
about 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small crusty loaf or boule (baguette, whole wheat, ciabatta, focaccia, whatever you've got)
2-3 oz fresh goat cheese (chevre) OR feta, crumbled, OR fresh mozzarella, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

salt and pepper
Heirloom tomato harvest

Core tomatoes and cut into 3/4-inch chunks.  Cut cucumber into 3/4-inch chunks.  Core and seed peppers, and cut flesh into 3/4-inch chunks.  Slice scallions or onion thinly.  Combine vegetables in a bowl with a generous drizzle each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and set aside to marinate while you prepare the bread.

Slice bread 1/2-inch thick, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.  Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, add bread chunks and a generous sprinkle of salt.  Toss well to coat all the pieces of bread with oil and salt, then cook, stirring frequently, until bread cubes are golden and toasty.

Add bread, cheese, and basil to marinating vegetables, and toss well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately, or let the salad sit for a half hour or so -- the flavors will meld, and the bread will soak up the juice.

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