Panzanella Bread Salad


Oh the joys of summer! On the top of the list is fresh, ripe tomatoes, garden cucumbers, and basil that the more you cut, the more it grows. And the tomatoes… Beefsteak, early girls, heirlooms,roma, plum, not to mention the all the varieties of cherry and grape!  Finally the heat is upon us and the garden has finally started to be promising.  This classic Tuscan bread salad is a perfect thing to make with the bounty.  Panzanella at its core is really a way to use up crusty bread that has gotten hard and to celebrate perfect summer tomatoes. It is a cooling summertime salad that relies on the bread as the “filler” to soak up the juices of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as the olive oil you pour over everything.

Once a poor man’s dish, it has become rather trendy. Once you make it, you’ll see why. It’s a great way to show off wonderful, fresh, summer produce and with so few ingredients you will be amazed at how good it is.  I am serving my with my leftover Herb and Dijon Mustard Glazed Turkey Breasts I had for dinner last night! You can serve the salad with any of your favorite grilled meats or it will stand alone for a great Meatless Meal. 
Enjoy and Happy Cooking,

Vonnie                                                                                                                                                              

Ingredients:
4 cups tomatoes, cut into large chunks
4 cups day old (somewhat dry and hard) crusty bread (Italian or French loaf), cut into chunks the same size as the tomatoes*
1 cucumber, skinned and seeded, cut into large chunks
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, torn into little pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
* If you don’t have hard old bread sitting around, you can take fresh crusty bread, cut it into big cubes, lay the cubes out on a baking sheet, and put in a 300°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until the outer edges have dried out a bit (not toasted, just dried). If you use fresh bread without doing this, the bread may disintegrate into mush in the salad.

Directions:
Mix everything together and let marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, up to 12 hours. Do not refrigerate or you will destroy the texture of the tomatoes.

Serve at room temperature.

Serves 6-8.

Gazpacho


This past weekend  has 31st annual Art in the Park in Plymouth, Michigan.  Plymouth Art in the Park has grown to become the second largest art fair in Michigan.  Held every year in July, this three-day event assembles over 400 artists from all over the country who display their work to nearly 200,000 attendees.  This art, music and food extravaganza was voted one of the “Gems of The Great Lakes” by AAA magazine, as well as #14 in the USA and #3 in MI among the top 200 art fairs in the country by America’s Premier Show & Festival Magazine.
While I was enjoying all the artwork, I had lunch at my favorite place Simple Sandwich.  I had a wonderful bowl of Gazpacho and really wanted to share my recipe with you.  The nice thing about my recipe is how quickly it comes together. For gazpacho, you must peel, seed, dice, salt and drain really good, vine-ripened tomatoes. So what if you don’t have time to fuss with fresh tomatoes?  I’ve found the canned variety makes a fine substitute.  Another advantage: Fresh tomatoes start to deteriorate as soon as the soup is refrigerated, but canned tomatoes are unaffected by the chill.

This is the perfect meal on a hot summer day or night.  Pair it with some sourdough bread and fresh fruit.  I also like to make this when it is time to clean out my vegetable crisper.  Don’t be held to the ingredients listed. Mix and match to your personal taste or what you have on hand.

Enjoy and Happy cooking,

Vonnie                                                                                                     

Ingredients
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes (I use Del Monte or Kroger brand Petite Diced)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 seedless cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch diced cubes
1 small bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch diced cubes (any color)
1 small  red onion, cut into 1/4-inch diced cubes
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or cilantro (or more)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lime juice

Sour cream, (optional)

Directions
Process 1/2 cup of tomatoes, along with the water and oil, in a blender or food processor until puree.  Transfer to a medium bowl, along with remaining ingredients. Season with salt, pepper and lime juice to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Top with sour cream if desired.  (Can be made several hours before serving.)
Makes 6 servings