Friday, August 26, 2016

Dressed Up Sourdough Panzanella

This one has been in the works for a long time. I really like the idea of making a panzanella where I grew the tomatoes and baked the bread myself, and finally my plants are giving me ripe fruit!

For those of you who are unfamiliar, panzanella is essentially a bread salad. Traditionally it was made as a way to use stale bread, but here we will toast the bread to get a little extra flavor. Though I don't dislike greens, it's nice to mix things up a bit (I've been eating a ton of greens since I often get them in my CSA box), and this salad is all tomatoes and bread. The vinaigrette is very punchy, which I think is necessary in this type of dish and also makes it quite refreshing. Following a brilliant tip from a Serious Eats article on the subject, I salted the tomatoes and collected the juices to add to the vinaigrette, which really made it pop. I thought I'd want some sliced red onion in the panzanella, but I actually found that it wasn't necessary - there was plenty of flavor already. This panzanella is "dressed up" because there are some extra herbs and chunks of mozzarella in addition to the bread and tomatoes. The mozzarella soaks up some of the dressing too, making it super flavorful. This panzanella is the perfect late summer dish!

Dressed Up Sourdough Panzanella
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted from Serious Eats and NYT Cooking

2 1/2 lb mixed tomatoes
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
12 oz (3/4 lb) crusty sourdough bread
6 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed
10 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small shallot, minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (if you want an extra strong dressing, you can even bump this up a bit)
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
A couple of big handfuls of basil leaves, slivered (to taste)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (lemon thyme is great, if you can find it)
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 F. Large dice the tomatoes and toss with 2 tsp kosher salt in a colander or strainer set over a bowl. Set aside to drain for 15 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, cube the bread to about 1". Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes, until crisp but not browned.
  3. Set the bread cubes aside to cool and remove the tomatoes to a serving bowl. To the bowl with the tomato juices, add the shallot, garlic, mustard, and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine, and continue whisking as you add the remaining olive oil (1/2 cup). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the bread cubes and mozzarella to the tomatoes and toss with the vinaigrette. Gently fold in the basil and thyme. Let the salad rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, until bread cubes are soft but not soggy. Dig in!
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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Blogaversary: Corn and Tomato Summer Salad

It's officially tomato season in Apt 2A, where the tomato plant:human ratio is 3:1! (I won't delve into the overall plant:human ratio, but it is very high). I picked my first harvest recently, most of which went into this salad. My cherry tomato plant, especially, has really exploded and I expect I'll soon be drowning in cherry tomatoes.

Perhaps more importantly, this blog is a year old today! Although it has occasionally been neglected for long periods of time, I'm still quite pleased (and a little surprised) that I've been doing this for a whole year. Lots of people surprised me with their support and enthusiasm for my public ramblings about food (and occasionally plants), so thank you all for reading! In celebration, I've prepared one of the most summery things I could think of. Like all good summer recipes, this is more of a loose sketch and should be guided by whatever is freshest and most beautiful in your crisper at the moment. Or, in my case, whatever is most irresistible when you go to the farmers market and/or open your CSA box. I feel particularly proud of this dish because it includes that first crop of tomatoes from my (not-so-) little balcony garden. This made such a refreshing lunch and kept pretty well in the fridge (some liquid collected at the bottom since salt draws it out, but the flavors and textures were intact). It would be delicious as a salad, but equally wonderful with tortilla or pita chips. I hope it inspires you to go all-out the next time you're shopping for produce!

Corn and Tomato Summer Salad
Yield: 2 servings as a main, or 3-4 as a side

4 ears corn
Diced red onion, to taste (I used about 1/4 of a medium onion)
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (I used a mix of big heirlooms and heirloom cherry tomatoes)
1/4 of a small/medium poblano pepper (or to taste), diced small
Zest and juice of 1 large lime (about 3 T juice)
1-2 cloves of garlic, pasted or minced
1 T olive oil
1/3 cup queso fresco or feta cheese, divided
1-2 T chopped parsley, divided

  1. Cook corn in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes, until just tender (Note: I've read this takes longer for grocery store corn than for farmers market corn, so just go by the texture of the kernels if they seem too hard). Let cool, then cut of cobs and place in a medium bowl.
  2. While the corn cooks, soak the onion in ice water for about 10 minutes (this takes the bite out of it). Drain on paper towels, and add to the bowl with the corn.
  3. Add the tomatoes and peppers to the bowl, and fold gently to combine.
  4. In a small bowl or liquid measure, whisk together the lime juice and zest, garlic, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing into the bowl of vegetables and fold gently to coat.
  5. Set aside a small palmful each of queso fresco and chopped parsley, and mix the rest into the salad (the queso fresco will make things slightly less pretty, but it adds a nice creamy texture).
  6. Taste and adjust any flavors to taste (for example, I added another big squeeze of lime juice, some salt, and that second clove of garlic). Garnish with the remaining cheese and parsley, and serve at room temperature.
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