Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Another visit to the Farmers Market

Photo: http://www.bhg.com/
(Meredith Corporation)
Every Tuesday afternoon during the summer, there is a Farmers Market near by younger daughter's house. I meet her there when she gets off of work. It gives us a chance to shop together, talk, and simply enjoy all of the sights and sounds and aromas of a local market.

This week we discovered amazing rustic breads from a local bakery, fresh basil, and some heirloom tomatoes.

Do you have any idea what an amazing meal you could make with just those simple ingredients?

In the Tuscanny area of Italy it is common to find Panzanella (pahn-zah-NEHL-lah) or bread salad, not only in restaurants, but in the homes of those living in central Italy. Italian cooks waste nothing and this is commonly a way to utilize stale bread and vegetables from the garden. The record of panzanella goes back centuries. In the 1500s, a poem by the famous artist, Bronzino, described the salad. Of course, the tomato was quite a few years from being introduced into the Italian kitchen, so the ingredients didn't include tomatoes. But the panzanella's created today take advantage of the wonderful earthy/sweet flavors of home-grown tomatoes at their finest:

Panzenella (Bread Salad)
Day-old bread
Cucumber, peeled and diced
Tomatoes (roma, plum, or heirloom of your choice)
Red onion, thinly sliced
Basil leaves

Olive oil & vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Suggestions for serving two people: 4-5 slices of day-old bread (1/2 loaf), 1 cucumber, 4 (Roma / small) tomatoes (or 1-2 large), 5-10 basil leaves, 1/4 red onion.
  1. Take the day-old bread, and lightly moisten it under the faucet. It should be moistened all the way through. If it’s too wet, gently squeeze excess water from the bread with your hands and set aside while chopping vegetables. The bread should crumble, not clump/collapse or get soggy.
  2. Shred the bread into a large salad bowl. I like to keep some larger pieces of bread in my panzanella, but you can crumble the bread down until there are very fine pieces, or “breadcrumbs” that resemble couscous.
  3. Cut the cucumbers and tomatoes into pieces and add them to the bowl. Thinly slice a red onion and chiffonade the basil.
  4. Add vinegar and olive oil and mix completely (start with a small amount of each, like 1 T. of vinegar and 3 T. of olive oil) and add more to taste. Taste before adding salt and pepper.
  5. The salad can be served immediately or chilled for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before serving.

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