Thursday, September 13, 2012

Vegetarian Panzanella

We had a full house this past weekend as a bunch of our friends from Montreal were in town to help celebrate my husband's birthday.  As you can imagine, around here, out-of-town visitors mean that there is an abundance of food in my kitchen.  I am always so afraid that I will not have enough food for guests that I inevitably end up making twice as much as I will need.  It is truly a disease.  A disease that is made more problematic by the fact that I refuse to throw food out.  I just can't bring myself to do it.  So, all that means is that we eat lots of leftovers when guests leave and, sometimes, using those leftovers can require a bit of creativity.

This time, one of my leftover items was a two-day old baguette.  It was way past its prime and, I have to admit that I was close to throwing it out.  After all, how would I manage to eat an entire stale baguette?  Then, it occurred to me:  Panzanella!  Panzanella is perfect for using up stale bread.   First the bread is sauteed in olive oil and then it soaks in a dressing.  By the time you are done preparing the dish, you will never be able to tell that the bread you used was less than fresh.

This particular recipe is one that I found via a very quick search for a panzanella recipe.  I chose it mostly because I had most of the ingredients on hand.  However, it is delicious and it is definitely one I will be making again.  The vinaigrette has a nice zing to it, which complements the fresh basil and fresh vegetables perfectly.  The only problem is that it is extremely addictive.

Vegetarian Panzanella
Adapted from Ina Garten
Yield: 4-6 main course servings

1/4 cup good olive oil
1 baguette, cut into one-inch cubes
3/4 tsp salt
4 Roma tomatoes, cut into one-inch cubes
1 cucumber, seeded, quartered, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow or orange bell pepper
1/4 medium yellow onion, minced
1 14 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
20 large basil leaves, cut into strips (chiffonade)

1/2 tsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red chili pepper

  1. Heat the oil and salt in a large saute pan.  Swirl the oil around in the pan to help the salt dissolve into the liquid.
  2. Add bread.  Cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  3. For the vinaigrette, whisk all of the ingredients together.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, chickpeas, and basil.  Add the bread and toss with vinaigrette.
  5. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.
Calories: 457 for 1/6th of the recipe


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