Tuesday, 26 July 2011

PANZANELLA, a lovely bread and tomato salad

There are so many ways to make panzanella! Sometimes, in summer, I make a very simple version just by cutting up stale bread into chunks, combining it with a sliced tomato, and mixing it up with some lemon juice and olive oil. If I want to get fancy I top it with a little crumbled feta cheese. Very simple and it hits the spot.   

Panzanella is a summertime bread salad made popular by the Florentines. It's a good way to use up leftover bread, and it's true peasant fare, which means it's really good. In addition to the bread, Panzanella includes
tomatoes, lots of basil, and sometimes other fresh vegetables. The salad is dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, or vinegar. It's a great choice for dinner on a hot, hot, day. I made some recently when the temperature was hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and here's how I put it together:

Get a piece of stale bread and cut it into cubes. Sprinkle with olive oil and mix well. Place the bread cubes in a skillet and cook them on the stove top. Make sure they are cooked on all sides. During the last minute of cooking add some grated Pecorino Romano cheese and mix. The cheese will start to melt as it cooks. Set the bread cubes aside and let them cool. 

In a large bowl toss the following: 1 sliced large tomato, some cherry tomatoes of various colours cut in half,  a few Kalamata olives cut in half, lots of basil leaves coarsely chopped, and a little Italian parsley coarsely chopped. 

Make a dressing by combining 2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, some black pepper, a dash of salt, and a pinch of fresh thyme. Pour it over the salad. Add the reserved bread and toss everything well. Top the salad with a small amount of crumbled feta cheese. Chill for about an hour, then serve and enjoy!!! 

Friday, 8 July 2011


Here we are again on French Fridays with Dorie, and this time we are making fillet of fish en papillote.  This can be prepared both with salmon or cod.  I happened to have some cod on hand, so cod it was.  There just aren't enough good things I can say about this recipe.  The fish came out tasting incredibly delicious!  Here is another of Dorie's recipes to treasure and make again and again.

En papillote is a method of cooking by wrapping food in parchment paper or aluminum foil.  It seals in the flavors during the cooking process and renders a more aromatic and tender product.  It's exactly what happened here.  The aroma of the cod was incredible and its texture was very succulent.

I made two fish packets.  To start off, I washed the fish well and patted it dry.  Then I placed it in a bowl and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I sprinkled the juice of one lemon over the fish and I let it absorb the lemon flavor while I continued preparing.  I made some tomato concassé, which is nothing else than diced tomatoes, peeled and with the seeds removed.  I always do this when I cook with fresh tomatoes because I really dislike finding loose tomato skin or seeds in my food.  They are tough and bitter, so out they go!  I salted the tomatoes and sautéed them in some olive oil.  Then I cut two large pieces of aluminum foil and placed them on the counter.  After that, all that was left to do was a layering of ingredients.  Some basil leaves went on the foil, then the fish, then the tomatoes then some lemon rind.

The layering continued with some chopped scallions, a couple of thinly cut lemon slices, a few dashes of olive oil, a bit more basil and a sprig of fresh thyme. I folded the aluminum foil over the fish and herbs, forming well sealed packets.  The fish cooked in a 400° F  oven for about 12 minutes. 

I opened up the foil packets and a fragrant puff of steam rose up from them, catching me  by surprise. I breathed in the aroma of  basil, thyme and lemon.  

The fish was plated and served right away.  It was seasoned perfectly, and the en papillote method had ensured the cod came out very tender.  How can I not cook this again?

Friday, 1 July 2011


Today on French Fridays with Dorie, we are making a beet salad topped with red onions and a really delicious vinaigrette.  Here's how: 

Get about a pound of beets, clean them well and peel them, then cut them up into quarters.  You want to have bite-size pieces.  Save the stems and leaves and wash those really well too. 

Place the beets in a Dutch oven lined with aluminum foil.  Season them with oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper and some olive oil.  Top the beets with the reserved leaves and fold the aluminum foil over them. 

No need to discard the beet leaves.  Cover the beets with them during cooking, and include them in your salad. 
Place the lid on the Dutch oven and bake in a 375°F oven for about half an hour to forty minutes.  The beets be soft.  Take them out of the oven, and reserve the leaves.  Make a vinaigrette using Dijon mustard and honey, salt and pepper, dried oregano, white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Toss the beets with the dressing, cover them again with the leaves and let them cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  While the beets are cooling, cut half a red onion into thin slices and place it in a bowl filled with cold water and ice cubes.  Store the bowl in the refrigerator along with the beets.  When ready to serve, arrange the beet leaves on a serving platter and top them with the beets and vinaigrette.  Then drain the onion slices, dry them with a paper towel, and spread them over the beets.  Allowing the onions to cool in the ice bath will give them a crunchy taste. 

This was a wonderful beet salad.  The dressing went very well with the beets.  Definitely something to make again and again.  One thing I forgot to do was to read the side notes in Dorie's cookbook, where it was suggested to top the salad with some cheese if desired.  I think that's a great idea.  Next time I make this recipe I will add cheese:  a topping of goat or feta, or maybe some crumbled up Roquefort or Gorgonzola.  If you love beets, this is the way to serve them.  Thanks Dorie!