Today I decided to whip a light, healthy lunch up for Bailey and myself of Panzanella... Yes, I know this seems like kind of a random choice of summery salad considering we are in the middle of January!
The recipe of choice for the Panzanella? Simon Hopkinson's version from The Good Cook - a cookbook my friends Doyle and Jeni rave about but that we never seem to use... I made the effort to have a good look through it during the Christmas holidays and although I don't really find it the most inspiring of books, decided to try a few vegetarian and fish treats out of it.
The recipe for Simon's "Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad" explained that this is one of those recipes that can be adapted to suit your tastes. Well I also adapted it to suit what we had in the kitchen, which included loads of red onions that needed using up, not actually that many tomatoes and a good chunk of the homemade bread I baked a week ago. The bread definitely fit the bill of "stale" - it was perfect as it remained firm even after soaking up all the tomatoey vinegary goodness at the bottom of the salad bowl.
I also added a few other tweaks (with the words of Maria from the Coven ringing through my head): chilli flakes for a bit of kick, honey for a bit of sweetness and a bit of lime juice for extra acidity.
We enjoyed our Panzanella lunch and thought the flavours were quite well balanced. Bailey said it was the perfect "man salad" and thought it looked really appetising. We thought it would have made a nice little starter or a good accompaniment to a barbecued tuna steak. However, I have to admit it wasn't the most appropriate lunch for a freezing cold day like today - we will look forward to enjoying it while sitting in the garden in the sunshine in a few months' time please!
Half a cucumber
3 small red onions
4 ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 pinch chilli flakes
White wine vinegar
The juice of 1 lime
1 tsp honey
10 basil leaves
130g stale wholemeal bread, crusts removed
Salt and pepper
Slice the skin off the cucumber and discard.
Cut the cucumber into chunks and place in a salad bowl before sprinkling with salt. Slice the onions into rings, discarding the middle bits. Put into the bowl with the cucumber and sprinkle with black pepper.
Cut the tops off the tomatoes and chop into chunks and add to the bowl. Finely chop the garlic and sprinkle onto the tomatoes with another bit of salt and the chilli flakes.
Drizzle the honey onto the tomatoes and add plenty of white wine vinegar to taste. Add the lime juice.
Get your mitts into the bowl and give it all a good mixing up, this will all be smelling very nice at this point! Leave the bowl to rest for around 30 minutes. The juices from the veg will all be sitting at the bottom by the end of this time.
Meanwhile, tear the bread into bitesize chunks and tear up the basil leaves. After the 30 minutes are up, prepare serving bowls. Add the chunks of bread and the basil leaves to the bowl and get your hands in there again to toss it all together. Make sure the bread has been mixed in thoroughly so the juices soak into it.
Serve the salad in bowls and sprinkle with a last bit of black pepper. Yum!