panzanella

Earlier this week, a woman at work brought in a box of what looked like 800 tomatoes.  Her vegetable garden is very giving, and, evidently, so is she.  The day this bounty came in, I didn’t want to be greedy so I took only three tomatoes, which is just what I’d need for a Margherita pizza or a Caprese salad.  But as the week continued, even though fewer and fewer tomatoes remained, there were still a lot left.  That’s when I took more.  Like, six more.  Don’t tell anyone.

Let’s make a salad.  A salad with bread!

Materials (serves four, or two famished souls, adapted from Ina Garten)

Salad
about 6 cups of peasant bread (or a baguette if you like crust), cut into 1-inch cubes
3 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 cups tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 English cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, sliced into
20 sprigs of fresh basil, coarsely chopped

 

Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp ground mustard, or Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, finely diced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

 

Protocol

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium, add bread pieces and stir to coat.  Cook until browned, stirring as necessary to prevent burning (took me ~10 minutes).  Set aside.

2. To make the vinaigrette, add all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Notice how the oil and vinegar don’t separate as they usually do?  The addition of mustard (a bonding agent due to its physical properties, which I could go into, but you might cry of boredom) creates an emulsion, which is a dispersion of molecules of one substance  (oil) in another (water) in which it’s usually not soluble.  In other words, two solutions that wouldn’t usually comingle, are now close friends.  Other culinary emulsifying agents include egg yolks and honey.  In case you don’t already know, science is too cool for words.

3. Before serving, toss all vegetables in the vinaigrette, add bread and toss again.  Feta is a nice addition, but not necessary or called for.  My sous chef (read: husband) loves cheese, so I sprinkled some in last minute.  I enjoyed the scant 1/2 cup of what was left over the next day, and though the bread was a bit soggy, the salad was still wonderful.

By the way, last I looked, at least 18 more tomatoes were still looking for a new home.

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