Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Refreshing and Rustic: Tuscan Bread Salad

Printable Recipe
Gorgeous and juicy, these heirloom tomatoes make the perfect mix with cool cucumbers and fiesty red onion for traditional bread salad. Panzanella. Yes, let's call it what it is: Panzanella, Panzanella. Doesn't that just roll off your tongue? Have some of this fresh Panzanella I've made especially for you, darling, hmmm? Years ago, when I first tried this dish at the now extinct Allo Spiedo, favorite Italian spot of mine where lots of things were cooked on a stick, I looked at this salad and thought why? Why put bread in there with those lovely vegetables, all fresh and summery? Why do it? And then I tasted it. Oh, sweet mother of pearl, that bread was saturated with the juice of cucumbers and tomatoes and oil and vinegar and fragrant herbs and garlic and it absolutely melted in my mouth. 

You certainly don't have to wait for peak tomato season to make panzanella, but you have no excuse when that time of year rolls around. So today, we're using 4-5 med size tomatoes of your choice, seeded and peeled too, if you think they need it. A few of these had very thin skin and I didn't bother peeling, the others needed it so I did it. I also seeded the cucumber before slicing(click here for a quick method) and would recommend you do the same. As for the red onion, halve it, and slice thinly and if it's as large as this one you'll probably only need 1/2 but let your personal taste be your guide.
I chopped this garlic very fine rather than crushing it in a press, which really releases the garlic oil, and since this one smelled a little strong  I wanted to keep it on the milder side by not pressing. Also, hold the garlic back to mix with the oil and vinegar rather than adding it to the rest of the vegetables now. 
All vegetables ready, now let's move on to that good crusty bread. This is the ideal use for bread that has gotten just a bit too hard to chew into for a sandwich, but I have also used a just purchased crusty loaf  and it works fine.
Just tear into uneven pieces, no need to cut neatly into cubes.

I used a little more than half this loaf which was nearly twice the bulk of the vegetables. Once it is all mixed together the bread will absorb juices from everything else and reduce considerably in bulk, though. Toss everything together now and anoint with the following dressing:

1/2 cup Olive Oil, 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, pinch of sugar, 1 tbs or so lemon juice. Whisk all together and taste for seasonings. If it seems bland, salt and pepper it more, too tangy add another pinch of sugar, and don't skip the lemon juice because it really brightens the flavor. Don't forget to add the chopped garlic before pouring over your salad.

Really toss well, scooping all the way to the bottom and turning everything over until the dressing is thoroughly dispersed. It's easier to just use clean hands to mix it all together. Last of all add the whole 8 oz carton of fresh mozarella which is soft enough to pinch or tear into pieces easily. Snip in the herbs with scissors last: basil, oregano, chives or crumble in dried, about 1 Tbs.      Now do your friends a favor and invite them over to share. 

1 Loaf Crusty Bread
8 oz Fresh Soft Mozarella
4-5 med Tomatoes
1 Cucumber
1 Red Onion
1 Clove Garlic
Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar
Fresh Herbs: Basil, Oregano, Chives

Summerfest is still on at the Food Network website and you'll find me there too! We're all blogging about Tomatoes this week. Stay tuned for one more post in two weeks, about broccoli, and in the mean time check out these other great blogs about how to use those beautiful garden tomatoes:

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Seared Chicken with Cherry Tomato Pan Sauce
Haute Apple Pie: Heirloom Tomato & Three Cheese Tart
What's Gaby Cooking: Zebra Tomato and Burrata Crostini
Zaika Zabardast: Balsamic Roasted Tomato-Basil Ice
And Love It Too: Healthy Lunchbox - Garlic Tomato Basil Pesto Bruchetta
Chez Us: Roasted Tomato Sauce
Glory Foods: Fresh Tomato Salsa
Dishin and Dishes: Tomato Tart Tatin
The Purple Cook: Eggplant Parmesan Caprese Salad
I Am Mommy: Tomato Crudite
Cooking With My Kid: Gluten-Free White Bean Chive Cakes with Heirloom Tomatoes
FN Dish: Easy Tomato Appetizers
Add a Pinch: Simple Caprese Salad Skewers
Sweet Life Bake: Salsa Cruda
Virtually Homemade: Farfalle with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Bacon and Shaved Romano 
Dixie Chik Cooks: Tomato, Basil and Olive Bruschetta
The Sensitive Epicure: Yemista - Greek Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers with Potatoes 
Mooshu Jenne: Sun Burst Tomato Pasta
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Book Club, Tomatoes and a Recipe for Chicken Proven├žal
Cooking With Elise: Tomato Parmesan Biscuits 
From My Corner of Saratoga: Cooking from the Garden - Bruschetta Pizza 
Fritos and Foie Gras: Tomato Terrine 
Creative Culinary: Fresh and Savory Tomato Pie 
Big Apple Nosh: Caprese Salad/Tomato Carnage 
Spices and Aroma: Quick and Easy Paneer Curry 
Zaika Zabardast: Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Breakfast Rolls

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sweet Corn and CousCous Main Dish Salad

Printable Recipe
It's the summer corn that makes this delicious dish, adding a little bite of sweetness to all the other savory ingredients.
Loaded with a mix of vegetables - whatever the market yields or whatever you prefer - and finished with grains, beans, and cheese, this is the perfect main dish for summer and requires no cooking. I do not apply the word "cooking" to this couscous since it requires only hot water poured over it to steep. But you can pretend to be cooking if you wish!

So, start that couscous first and by the time it's ready and cooled you'll have the vegetables chopped, dressing made, and dinner or luncheon will be ready for the table. Do people eat luncheon anymore? I'm calling it luncheon, recalling past days of cool summer lunch dishes in southern cafes or ladies lunching spots in fancy department stores with dainty little portions that would be the object of guffaws today. Sigh. Back to our couscous. It's fine to buy it in the box, for instance Far East brand, just be sure to leave out the packet of seasonings. The dressing for this dish is much better than the box seasonings and full of great flavors.

If you're using couscous bought in bulk, Pour 1-1/2 cups boiling water over 1 cup dry couscous and let sit for 5-10 minutes without stirring. Fluff with a fork when done. You should have about 2-1/2 cups.
This is the mix of vegetables that I used which is an ideal balance of sweet, hot, crunchy, spicy, and savory. You can use what you like, but try this mix if you can or something very close to it at least once: 2 ears of corn (microwaved for 5 minutes), one zucchini, 1 cucumber,1 yellow squash, 2-3 green onions or 1 small vidalia, 1 large or several small carrots, 1 sweet red pepper, 1 small hot pepper. Cut the corn from the cob and finely dice everything else. Toss the vegetables and couscous together and top with the dressing recipe below.  Clickity here for Cutting Corn Off the Cob notes near the bottom of that page, plus a bonus recipe for Summer Corn Soup.

Now, I know that the colorful batch of vegetables in this picture is a little different from the list above. It just happened that I found some crazy looking PURPLE onions and peppers and carrots that were white and pink and ROUND zucchini and WHITE zucchini and those oddities were irresistible to me. Oh, how I love the Farmer's Markets at the height of the local season when such funny things are available.Also, I just used a small part of each of those peppers in the picture which equaled about one hot and one sweet in the end.

To round out this salad's flavor add 1 can of beans, such as red or black or garbanzo, and a cup of feta cheese. This addition will make the dish a complete protein by combining grains and beans, not to mention the additional texture element this brings.

And finally we're going to finish it off with the dressing that really pulls it all together. One word of warning on this dressing. It's delish, but too much of a good thing is not a better thing. Add about half the dressing, mix really well, and taste before you add more. If you're refrigerating this before serving, toss really well and check the dressing again before you serve because the couscous will really soak it up, possibly requiring more, but you still don't want it too wet with an overload of dressing.

1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
3 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
3 Tbs White or Champagne Vinegar
1 Tbs Honey Mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp each, salt and pepper
1 tbs each fresh dill, basil, chives (optl)

Whisk or shake it all together, taste for additional sugar if it's too tangy. As in, if you pucker up when tasting it, you probably need an extra tsp or two of sugar.
Colorful and Oh-So-Tasty. Looks like confetti salad, doesn't it?

2 ears of corn
1 zucchini
1 cucumber
1 yellow squash
2-3 green onions or 1 small vidalia
1 large or several small carrots
1 sweet red pepper
1 small hot pepper
1 can beans (red, black, garbanzo, your choice)
8 oz feta cheese crumbled

This summer you can find me on the Food Network website! Summer Fest continues at FN Dish and we're all blogging about Corn this week. Stay tuned for more summer fruit and veg posts and in the mean time check out these other great blogs about fresh corn:

Dishin and Dishes: Kicked Up Creamed Corn From Scratch
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Fresh Corn Salsa with Basil and Mint
Zaika Zabardast: Fresh Corn Risotto
What's Gaby Cooking: Spicy Corn Salsa
CIA Dropout: Truffle Roasted Corn Kohlrabi Soup
Cooking Channel: Fresh Corn Muffins
Food for 7 Stages of Life: Corn on the Cob Korma
FN Dish: Southwest Corn Recipes
Pinch My Salt: Peter Reinhart's Fresh Cut Corn Bread with Bacon
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Corn & Watermelon Salad
Virtually Homemade: Summer Corn Salad
Food2: Creamed Corn Cornbread
Virtually Vegan Mama: Thai Corn Soup
Sunshine and Smile: Scallops with Corn and Pepper Sauce
Spices N Aroma: Corn Pilaf
The Sensitive Epicure: Fresh Corn Fritters with Chive Lemon Chipotle Yogurt (Gluten-Free)
Dixie Chick Cooks: Fresh Corn with Basil Slaw and Feta
Cooking With Books: Corn Favorites
Purple Cook: Corn on the Cob with Cilantro
Glory Foods: Skillet Corn Muffins
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