Tasty Panzenella!
August 24, 2010, 9:01 pm
Filed under: Italy, Poultry, Quick and Easy, salad, Vegetables

This household loves bread salad, in whatever incarnation happens at whatever day. I prefer the toasted crunchy bread kind over the soaked-in-water stale bread type. In fact, the soaked in water type is, in my opinion, kinda gross…but if you like it, that’s just my opinion, and you are welcome to yours. It’s what’s on the table tonight!

Bear in mind it’s a little different every time I make it, depending on the contents of the veg drawer and pantry, but it is always a bowl full of chopped fresh vegs and toasted bread cubes all tossed in a simple garlic oil and vinegar (sometimes red wine, sometimes balsamic) dressing. I’ll put down tonight’s incarnation, with notes at the end.

Panzenella, Rootie Style

1 big loaf french bread, cubed
about 1/4 cup olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper (kinda coarse)
Toss the bread cubes in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Toast on a cookie sheet at 325 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until they’re dry and showing brown edges. Set aside to cool.

Toss with oil, salt and pepper, toast until brown

In a big bowl (I use the same one the bread bits were tossed in) mix together:
6 oz fresh mozzerella, cut into small bits (OR! those little bittly pearl mozzerella balls! Those are great! But Terry bought the mozz this time and I wasn’t going to make him go back) (also, it’s hard to have too much fresh mozzerella. If you want more than 6 oz I certainly won’t complain)
3 carrots
1 bell pepper
1 cucumber
3 scallions
1 large tomato
1 can medium black olives
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
3 grilled chicken breasts (excellent use for leftover chicken! Or a rotisserie chicken from the store!)
Chop all the vegs except the olives and artichoke hearts, make them smallish bits, you want stuff to be about the same size, and throw them into the bowl with the cut up cheese. Mix it together.
Then..
Finely chop 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley and 6-7 leaves of fresh basil…chop them good and fine. Stir into the vegs.

Then…
make the dressing:
1/2 cup good olive oil (I use garlic oil* that I make up every now and then and keep on hand for just such a thing)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Whisk together until it’s well blended and pour over the vegs. Stir it up good.

Right before serving, mix in the bread cubes, stir up really well so the bread soaks up a bit of the dressing. Eat immediately, otherwise the bread gets soggy.

Terry likes leftovers for lunch the next day, and due to the soggy bread issues, I’ll dip out some of the vegs and pack the bread bits seperately for him to mix up when he’s ready to eat.

Commentary:
Any sort of vegs do, if they’re fresh. Avocadoes are excellent in this. So are those baby corn and water chestnuts in the Asian aisle.
If you like celery, add that. Use red peppers and well as green. Try simmering shallots in the oil for a different flavor dressing. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, used bottled Italian dressing. Once I made it with rare grilled steak, cut into little bits and barely warmed up. YUM! The main thing is to have about 2 parts bread cubes to 1 part vegetables, and a good simple vinagrette dressing. Next time I make the cornbread salad, I’ll share that recipe too. (it’s got a South-of-the-border vibe with roasted corn, jalapenos and cheddar cheese.

*garlic oil- a friend’s husband went to Italy last summer and brought back a limoncella bottle that he gave me, knowing my fondness for odd bottles to use for neferious culinary purposes. I found it perfect for garlic oil, because the neck is skinny and the garlic won’t come out when I pour it. So, to make garlic oil (write this down, it’s complicated), Seperate and peel the cloves on an entire head of garlic and stuff them into a bottle with a lid (cork, top, whatever) Fill the bottle with olive oil. Let it sit, giving it a little shake now and then, for a week or so before you use any. Whenever you use it, give the bottle a bit of a swirl first. When the bottle is about 1/2 empty, refill it with more oil, and give it a swirl now and then. You can do this with just about anything that’s aromatic and you want to use to flavor oil. rosemary oil is lovely, or a multi-herb oil with rosemary, thyme and oregano that’s amazing brushed on a steak before you grill it. Oh, throw in a few whole black peppercorns too…tasty!

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