Thursday, June 23, 2011

the arrival of summer and panzanellas!

it's time for a confession.
while i can imagine it's a healthier attitude to love all the seasons for what they have to offer... summer is, has, and (dare i say it!) will always be my favorite season. maybe it was the four years in chicago or the three in northern germany that did it, but we could make 3 of the 4 seasons summer and i would feel just fine about that. longer days, less layers, outdoor barbecues, sandals, long hikes, sunny skies, open air theaters. summer is a healing season.

it's also the season of picnics!! last week, i went to an outdoor picnic in berlin's treptower park. i'm staying in berlin for the month of june and renting a flat from a friend. as she hasn't been living here since some months, her kitchen isn't necessarily the best equipped with oils, spices, and all of those little things that make dishes so tasty. so i was looking for a simple, light dish i could bring along and whose ingredient list wasn't too long. this panzanella was a clear winner. fresh summer vegetables and herbs and a light vinaigrette to tie it all together. the only thing that isn't fresh about this recipe is the french baguette, which you should remember to buy a day beforehand and leave out on the counter overnight to go nice and stale.

summer's panzanella
loosely adapted from smitten kitchen

for the salad:
3 tablespoons olive oil

½ loaf french bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (5 cups)

1 tablespoon salt

2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cucumber, unpeeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick

2 bell peppers (1 yellow and 1 orange, for some color!), seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced

15 basil leaves, coarsely chopped

½ cup chives, finely chopped
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly diced

for the vinaigrette:

2 roasted garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard 
2 teaspoons runny honey (haa!)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste 

toss your bread cubes together in a bowl with the olive oil and salt. place on a tray alongside two cloves of garlic and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until browned.

in the meantime, whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette. like i mentioned above, feel free to leave out the dijon mustard if you don’t have any on hand. it adds a nice kick but isn’t essential. once the bread is done, allow to cool. mince the garlic finely and add to the vinaigrette.

in a large bowl, throw together the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and olives. add the bread and toss with the vinaigrette. salt and pepper to taste.

i would let the salad sit for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors to blend. make sure to serve within a few hours so you can eat it while it’s crunchy and before the bread turns too soggy.