Panzanella Salad

I had a blast channeling my inner 15-year-old girl yesterday when a friend and I took two carloads of giggly girlie girls over to Noah’s Ark in the Dells for the day.  Oh. My. Gosh.  If you haven’t shrieked like a teenage girl in a while, you should definitely give it a go.  It’s cathartic and fun and no one even cares because they’re all screaming their faces off, too.  Somehow we lucked out and there were no lines for anything at all, which meant we were able to run from slide to slide without navigating any crowds, and we rode slides until we were completely waterlogged and absolutely could not climb one more stair.

You would think that spending the day in a swimsuit would have acted like some sort of fantastic junk food appetite suppressant.  You might think that swimwear would have dissuaded me from a lunch of French fries and chicken fingers with ranch and a Choco Taco for dessert.  Yes, that’s what you might think.  But that would be wrong because, despite swimwear, I ate all of those things yesterday.  And also a huge soft pretzel.  And when I got home at 9:00 there was a piece of Sendik’s quiche sitting in the fridge and I had that too.  Call the calorie police, I deserve a citation.

I woke up this morning with the strongest craving for my favorite salad.   You might recognize it because I’ve talked about it here before, but it bears mentioning again because so many of the key ingredients are on sale, AND it’s really flippin’ delicious.  And this is what I’m eating today.

Serves:  12
Source:  Barefoot Contessa PARTIES!, by Ina Garten, pp. 102-103

3 T. olive oil
1 small loaf of French bread, cut in 1” cubes (about 6 cups) (Sendik’s Italian Bread is on sale and would make a fine substitute)
1 t. salt
2 large tomatoes, cubed (Sapori Tomatoes are on sale; they’re small so just add a couple more)
1 English cucumber, seeded and sliced 1” thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced into 1” cubes (Fancy Jumbo Peppers are on sale)
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced into 1” cubes (ditto that ^^)
½ red onion, julienned
20 large basil leaves, chopped
3 T. capers, drained

1 t. minced garlic
½ t. Dijon mustard
3 T. champagne vinegar (champagne vinegar is great, but I use white wine, sherry vinegar, or whatever light vinegar I have on hand)
½ c. olive oil (Two brands are on sale:  Alessi Imported EVOO and California Olive Ranch EVOO)
½ t. kosher salt
1/4  t. ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Add more oil as needed.  (*NOTE:  I make these in the oven; just toss the bread with the oil and salt, and spread the cubes on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, toss, and continue to bake until golden and toasty.)

For the dressing, place all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until well blended (I use my stick blender, which emulsifies dressings in a snap).

In a large bowl, mix all of the vegetables, the basil, and the capers.  Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour to blend the flavors.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous, News | June 18th, 2013