I’m sorry things have been so quiet around here. (Can you hear the crickets?) Life has left little time for blogging this summer, and I haven’t done a whole lot of creative cooking either. But I have completed a couple of challenges that I have yet to blog about. I’m hoping to get all caught up and then start a new round of challenges in the fall.
One recent challenge was seasonally appropriate: to make a cold dinner that was also satisfying. For this challenge, I wanted to use something from our garden, which means tomatoes. Naturally, I thought of one of my favorite salads: panzanella, or bread salad. Not only is this a great dish for enjoying dead ripe tomatoes, but it’s also handy for using up stale bread. The juices from the tomatoes soak into the bread and give it new life.
To make this dish an entree, I added leftover grilled chicken and cannellini beans, along with an assortment of vegetables. They combined to create a satisfying, hearty dish for a hot summer night. The inspiration for the basic recipe comes from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.
Yields: 4 servings
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the bread of its crust and cut into smallish squares to make approximately 2 cups bread cubes. Toast the cubes in the oven until browned and dried out, about 10 minutes. Put the cubes in a large bowl. Puree 1 ripe tomato in a food mill over the bowl. Toss the tomato puree with the bread, add some salt, and let it sit for 15 minutes or more.
In a food processor, combine 1 peeled garlic clove, 1 teaspoon anchovy paste* and 1 tablespoon capers,drained. Puree. Combine thoroughly with ¼ cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and salt to taste. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the salad ingredients:
- Dice 2 ripe tomatoes.
- Dice 1 yellow or red bell pepper.
- Peel and dice 1 cucumber.
- Thinly slice ½ red or sweet onion.
- Thinly slice 1 breast leftover cooked chicken (preferably roasted or grilled).
- Drain and rinse 1 cup cooked cannellini beans.
Combine everything in the serving bowl with plenty of freshly ground pepper, and toss thoroughly.
*I prefer anchovy paste (it comes in a little tube) to actual anchovies because I don’t cook with anchovies often, and then I only use a little at a time. A tube of anchovy paste seems to last me a good long while. You may substitute 2-3 anchovy fillets, if you like.