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.

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Tomatoes


As spring kicks into full gear we can now enjoy so many more fresh fruits and vegetables.  April was recognized as National Florida Tomato Month as it’s the state that grows the most fresh tomatoes for consuming, while California grows the most tomatoes for processing. 

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Dale from Lincoln Park, Michigan who is Michigan Heirloom Tomatoes. He shared his wealth of knowledge and helped me pick out 5 varieties of heirloom tomatoes for my garden. He gave me a lot of suggestions on planting too. Thanks Dale! I can’t wait to get my garden in the ground in the next couple of weeks. You can find Dale on Facebook:  Michigan Heirloom Tomatoes (Michigan Tomatoes)
With this in mind I decided to post one of my new favorite recipes using tomatoes.
Chicken with Prosciutto, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes.
Hope you enjoy. Let me hear from you.                                                                    
Happy cooking,


 

Serves:6

6 boneless chicken breasts
flour
3 TBSP. olive oil
1 TBSP. butter
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 pound prosciutto, cut into slivers * can use a mild flavored ham
1 TBSP. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
4 TBSP. tomato paste mixed with 1/2 cup water
2-3  ripe tomatoes, diced

Dust chicken with flour. Heat oil and butter over medium heat in large oven proof skillet. Add chicken and brown thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Add prosciutto, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaf. Stir and add mushrooms. Saute for 3-5 minutes. Add wine, simmer gently for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste that has been mixed with water. Stir well. Transfer to 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. Baste chicken so that it is well glazed and add diced tomatoes. Continue cooking for 10- 15 minutes.
Serve with lightly buttered pasta and a green salad.