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.
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
- 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.
- Add bread. Cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.
- For the vinaigrette, whisk all of the ingredients together.
- In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, chickpeas, and basil. Add the bread and toss with vinaigrette.
- Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.