panzanella

I used to work at Chez Piggy in Kingston, and learned lots about cooking and working in kitchens.  The big thing for restaurants is trying hard not to throw out food, but at the same time serving fresh food. Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential tries to do a big exposé on daily specials and how they’re just ways to sell ingredients that are about to go bad, but it’s pretty much common sense and you can be the lowly dessert girl (and, later, the lowly line cook) and still see how this works. Or, you know, you can just think about it. Anyway, bread was a hard one at Chez Piggy, there was a sister bakery, where I later worked, that made all the buns and breads for the restaurant, and so there was basically always too much bread. And day-old bread didn’t cut it. One of the ways to get through this was panzanella, a pretty delish bread salad. Sometimes I want this bread salad so much that I can’t wait for my bread to go stale. This happened this week, so I toasted slices of a baguette to dry them out.

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The recipe is easy and quick, but made better if you take some time with it.

  • dry bread (I always vote for a ciabatta, it’s crusty and soft, but this time I used a demi baguette and it was better than okay)
  • two bell peppers
  • tomatoes
  • jarred artichoke hears
  • capers
  • red onion
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

If you’re using fresh bread, toast it, rip it into pieces (rustic!) and leave it out as long as you can.  If you have time, slow roast the tomatoes as long as you like.  I used grape tomatoes, and roasted them with olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper for about an hour and a half.  For the last fifteen minutes, I threw in a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Grill or roast the sliced peppers and onions.  Chop the artichokes.  Mix everything together in a bowl.  The oil and vinegar from the tomatoes should be enough to coat everything, but you really want a lot of sauciness.  Add more oil and vinegar if you want more.  I also threw in half an avocado and some cheddar, because everything is better with avocado and cheese.

This gets better after a day or so, and would make a great picnic.  The weather has been amazing lately, so maybe maybe this is a possibility for next week!

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