Friday, June 3, 2011

Exceptional Eats: Panzanella

I've been meaning to add a food feature to the ole' blog for quite some time.  You see, I love to cook.  I fancy myself a bit of an amateur Martha Stewart- minus the crafty abilities.  I can't even sew on a button, but I am a domestic goddess in every other sense.

The kitchen is my favorite room in the house.  I not only get enjoyment out of feeding my friends and family, but I also find cooking to be relaxing and stress-relieving.  Like any good foodie (yes, J, it's a word!), I am always in search of fabulous new recipes to add to my repertoire.

Seeing as how it's officially summer, and all of you gardeners are about to enjoy the fruits of your labor (ha!), I thought I'd start my new feature by sharing one of my favorite producey recipes.  I cannot take credit for this one- it comes from the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten.  We LOVE this salad, and so does everyone else** I've ever made it for! 

**This is a test, Laura...are you reading?  ;)


Olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
salt & pepper
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 large basil leaves
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 french baguette, cut into 1-inch thick slices

1. Prepare charcoal or gas grill, or if working indoors, a grill pan.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside.
3. Place the cucumber, tomato, bell peppers, basil, and capers in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss together.  Set aside.
4. When the grill is ready, brush one side of the onion slices with olive oil.  Place them, olive oil side down, on the grill and cook for 4 minutes.  Brush the other side with olive oil, turn them over, and continue cooking an additional 4 minutes.  Remove the vegetables from the grill and place them on a cutting board.  Separate the onion rings and add them to the cucumber mixture.  
5. Brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil and toast them on the grill until golden.  Add them to the cucumber mixture.
6. Pour the reserved vinaigrette over the vegetables and toss together.

The original recipe calls for the bell peppers to be grilled in the same manner as the onions, however, I like the flavor and crunch of the peppers raw.  But if you prefer that grilled  flavor, by all means, grill away!  And this vinaigrette...TO DIE FOR.  It would be delicious on any salad.  But the best part of this dish?  Bread- my favorite!- in the salad.  Way better than a crouton.  Pure genius. 

Perfect summer eats.  Enjoy!

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