Saturday, August 11, 2012

I welcome back my trusty camera with a Panzanella salad!

Zion National Park in Utah
This long break between postings is the fault of my camera.  It went on vacation without me and I was surprised to learn my camera took great pictures without me behind the lens.  My poor ego!
Zion National Park
Escalante Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park 
Looking out towards the Continental Divide in Colorado
The camera took a two week car trip to Neveda, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and Colorado while I stayed home with the kitchen remodel (see below for current status). I didn't cook once, unless you consider making popcorn cooking.  Mostly, I microwaved frozen dinners, fixed breakfast cereal, and snacked on cheese and crackers.
Kitchen remodel after 11 weeks

The new kitchen arch

Insulation made from blue jeans
So to get myself back into the temporary garage kitchen I made Panzanella, an easy and simple Italian bread salad.  The nice thing about this versatile salad is you can tailor it to suit your taste.  The core ingredients are bread (quality crusty bread), tomato, cucumber, onions, olive oil and vinegar.  If you look around you’ll find a slew of recipes. 
Traditionally, stale bread is used in this dish because it soaks up the dressing nicely.  I like to toast my bread, which is not authentic, I prefer my bread lightly moistened rather than overly soggy.  Experiment, be creative, and  have fun making this great summer salad, but make sure to get the best tasting tomatoes you can find.
I adapted this recipe from the July 2011 issue of Cook’s Illustrated.

6 cups of rustic Italian bread cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (I probably used a bit more than ½ cup)
Salt & pepper
1 ½ pounds tomatoes, cores, seeded, and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced thin
1 shallot, sliced thin
¼ cup chopped fresh basil (I used ½ cup)
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (I used Balsamic vinegar)
My extra additions:
Corn, avocado, mixed greens, feta, and toasted almonds.

1)  Adjust the oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss bread pieces with 2-4 tablespoons olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Arrange bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Toast bread until just starting to turn light golden, 15-20 minutes. stirring halfway through.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

2) Gently toss tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Transfer to colander and set over bowl to  drain for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally. (I also use all of the juices from the coring and seeding of  the tomatoes, which was approximately ½ cup of liquid.)

3) Whisk remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, ¼ teaspoon pepper, reserved tomato juices.  I also  added a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard.  Add bread pieces, toss to coat and let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.  (I use just half of the dressing and I let the bread sit only 5 minutes so it is just slightly soft.

4) Add tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, basil and any other ingredients you choose and gently toss with the remaining dressing.  Serve immediately.


  1. Welcome back! I love your blog. So glad your camera returned safely. It sure took some good pictures in your absence!
    And now we can drool over your photos and watch the progress of your kitchen remodel. Yay!

  2. What a beautiful salad! And insulation made from blue jeans...I learn something new all the time.
    At least your camera told you where it had been while it was gone!