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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Got Tomatoes? Try Panzanella Salad

I never dreamed we would ever grow more tomatoes than we could possibly eat.  It seemed every year we would pick them one by one as they ripened.  Not this year.  We have several heirloom varieties growing out back in containers.  In this heat, we have to water the containers twice a day.  We end up picking a few tomatoes every time we water.  Recently, our backyard groundhog has been smitten by the tomatoes, climbing the cages and pulling them off,  taking one bite, and leaving the innocent juicy leftovers bitten side up in full view for us to find.  Bastard. 
We now pick them when almost ripe and plop them on the window sill to fully ripen.  You do what you have to do to survive urban gardening.  What's next, deer?

We have eaten tomatoes every way possible.  Salt and peppered.  Sliced with a dollop of mayonaise.  Tossed raw with hot cooked angel hair pasta.  Sliced as a a side dish.  Name it, we've had it.  I haven't cooked with any yet because they are just too good right now raw and still warm from the sun. Being so sweet, they beg to be eaten in thier purest form....raw.

Last night I decided to make our tomatoes the star of the show with panzanella.  Panzanella is  a bread salad originating in the Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio regions of Italy.  Commonly referred to as "leftover" salad because day old or week old bread is used as a base for the salad.  Waste not want not.  Very simple ingredients.  Very good ingredients are key with simple preperations.

A non-recipe.  I used leftover cheese topped brioch.  I sliced the brioch into bite sized cubes and toasted the cubes in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes to lightly brown and crisp up.  I sliced two Sunsets Red Horizon tomatoes in similar sized pieces, dropped them into a bowl, and  added the toasted bread cubes, minced red onion, fresh whole basil leaves, baby arugula, red oak, frisee, baby spinach, salt, and pepper.

After drizzling 4 tablespoons of good olive oil and 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar over the salad, I tossed it well , and let it rest for 20 minutes to combine the flavors and absorb the dressing.  Using a microplane, I finely grated parmesan reggiano over the top for a nutty salty finish

So good, fresh, and light.  The tomatoes released enough juice to mix with the bright vinaigrette, allowing the toasted bread to plump and soften.  The bitter greens and anise toned basil wilted softly around the tomatoes and bread.  Their bitterness punched back the incredible sweetness of the tomatoes just enough to balance the salad, while the bread made it hearty. Almost meaty. The toasted crispness of the bread  softened and  subdued under the tomato juice vinaigrette.

Yet another great way to savour the bounty of summer tomatoes. 
There are only two of us for our bounty.
Too many tomatoes, so little time.

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