Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Panzanella with heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers

Produce in California is so delightfully fresh and flavorful that I find myself wanting to showcase a particular vegetable with a simple dressing. I know, I know it is way too late to be talking about tomatoes, but in SF the late season heirloom tomatoes are still ridiculously beautiful and the inviting warm weather just screams a very late summer.

When I was in Tuscany earlier this summer, I fell in love with panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad with juicy heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, and rustic bread tossed in a red wine vinaigrette. I returned inspired to make the dish over and over again. Panzanella is a great way to use up leftover bread and add substance to a salad. Even in post-tomato season, you can make a Tuscan-inspired panzanella showcasing seasonal vegetables in the spring and in autumn/winter- I'm thinking butternut squash, sage, and brussel sprouts.

In this late summer panzanella, tomatoes, bell peppers, hot house cucumbers, red onions, basil, capers, and sourdough are tossed in a light champagne vinegar-dijon dressing. Although the dressing is lighter than the tradiational red wine vinaigrette commonly used in Tuscany, it has enough acidity to balance the sweetness of the tomato and bell pepper. It is best to let the dish sit for about half an hour before serving to allow the bread to soak up all of the tasty goodness.

*Update: If you are like me and have heaps of corn, shuck an ear or two and toss it in with the tomatoes. The sweet crunch adds a lovely dimension to my favorite summer salad!

For a light weeknight dinner, I served this delicious panzanella with a more fall appropriate dish- a small side of pan roasted zucchini tossed with onion, thyme, and parmesan.

Panzanella (Ina Garten)
1 heirloom tomato, cut into 1" cubes (I used late season tomatoes)
1/2 hot house cucumber, halved, seeded, and sliced 1/2" thick
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1" cubes
10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1.5 tbsp capers

1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp dijon
1.5 tbsp champagne vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt

kosher salt
small baguette (I used sourdough), cut into 1" cubes, about 3 cups
2 tbsp olive oil

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add bread and season well with salt. Cook until nicely browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more oil as necessary.

Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

In a large bowl, combine tomato, cucumber, red onion, yellow and red bell pepper, basil, and capers. Add bread cubes and toss with vinaigrette. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Let sit for half an hour to let the flavors blend before serving.

Serves 2-3 as a main.

1 comment:

  1. I adore this dish. I made it several times over the summer, and like California, the weather here in Austin allows for me to make it in the fall too! Thank you for sharing!


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