Monday, August 10, 2009
Now that tomatoes are truly in season and I happened to have a few overripe ones begging to burst on the counter and a day old loaf of bread to boot - I intuitively knew it was time for Panzanella.
Panzanella is an Italian bread salad with cucumbers, onions and tomatoes tossed with red wine vinaigrette and chunky, buttery, garlicky croutons.
I made the croutons early this morning and I'll be frank; it was nearly impossible for me to stop nibbling on them warm from the oven.
Then it hit me.
Soft boiled eggs and bacon! I was imagining the eggs melding with the vinaigrette and tomato juices - and then the salty, crispy bacon folded in.
I was salivating.
So, I made it for breakfast and have enough croutons to make it again for dinner. I am downright giddy.
Panzanella would be great as a side or a main dish for any meal. I think the one thing that might take it over the edge would be to serve it with a plate of some exquisite goat cheese like Capriole's* Piper's Pyramid.
This salad is truly a seasonal delight - don't let summer get away without it.
Panzanella Salad with Bacon and Eggs
1 rustic country loaf cut up into chunky 1 inch cubes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 small cloves garlic, minced
Eggs & Bacon:
2 large eggs either boiled or poached to your preference
3 to 4 thick slices of bacon fried until crisp
2 medium tomatoes and all their glorious juices roughly chopped
1 large cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped
1 half large red onion sliced into half moons
handful torn basil leaves
good red wine vinegar & extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Make croutons by gently heating butter, olive oil, garlic and some salt in a sauce pan. Heat for just a few minutes until you can smell the garlic permeate the fat. Do not let garlic brown at all. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Toss in a mixing bowl with bread and use your hands to evenly coat all the croutons. Lick your fingers dry and bow your head in gratitude. Place croutons in the oven on baking sheets at 350 for 7 to 10 minutes until golden brown and slightly crunchy. They will harden more as they come to room temperature. You will have extra so keep them in a sealed container for later use. You can then re-warm them in the oven for a few minutes if they've gotten any humidity in them.
Cut up tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in a bowl, season with salt and pepper.
Toss the tomatoes, cucs, onions and croutons together and add the vinegar and olive oil to taste. I would add a little more vinegar than you think you'll need because it's tang will get absorbed by the bread. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature so flavors can meld. Tear basil and toss in. Slice eggs and crumble bacon and place on top or serve on the side.
*Capriole Goat Cheeses are locally produced in Southern Indiana and sold at Green City Market, Whole Foods and Pastoral in Lakeview and in the Loop on Lake Street.