Monday, May 25, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Summer Panzanella (Bread Salad)

I concocted this bad boy last minute before heading over to a Memorial Day BBQ this weekend. I added a subtle Provençal twist to the classic Tuscan dish.. Perfect for a sun-drenched picnic. Generally bread salads are great because you can make use of a stale baguette you might otherwise toss, but in a pinch you can dry out a coarsely cut loaf in the oven on low heat for 10-15 minutes or until bread's flesh is firm and crisp to the touch.

1 loaf dry Italian bread
1 diced shallot
1 pound small fingerling potatoes
3-4 vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 Persian cucumber, halved length-wise and sliced
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1/2 cup pitted green olives, halved (Picholine or Sicilian)
1 red onion, chopped
1 jar/can preserved hearts of palm, sliced into medallions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/8 cup chopped fresh thyme
A few handfuls of arugula, frisée, or red mustard greens
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon Moscato
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Herbes de Provence
1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano

Cut or tear bread into bite-size chunks, dry in the oven (250 degrees) if needed.
Wash fingerling potatoes, halve (or quarter - to bite size) with a chef's knife. Fill a large sauce pot halfway with water, add the potatoes and a heavy sprinkle of sea salt, bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are just fork-tender, approximately 10 minutes, drain. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, then shallots and a dash of Herbes de Provence. Sautée fingerlings until golden. Move to a casserole and cool in the fridge.
Toss bread chunks, tomatoes, olives, cucumber, hearts of palm, onion, garlic, herbs and greens. Set aside.
In a small mason jar combine olive oil with Champagne vinegar, moscato wine, lemon juice, a hefty drip of honey, dash of Herbes de Provence, and salt and pepper to taste. Screw on top and shake until combined.
Add potatoes and Pecorino Romano to salad mixture and stir well. Add dressing and toss if serving within the hour. Otherwise cover salad and take jar of dressing along, add one half hour or so before serving. Note: it IS okay for the bread to get a little soggy here (in fact, it's the fun part).
Adjust flavor with sea salt and fresh pepper.
Enjoy with a tasty Summer cocktail, like this one we whipped up in Nicolette's kitchen.

2 oz vodka
1 oz fresh pressed watermelon juice
1 oz sparkling wine

Stir vodka and watermelon juice over cracked ice, top with bubbly and garnish with lime.

We also feasted on a spiked fresh watermelon, which you can make with one 750 ml bottle of mid-range vodka and a large gourd, full instructions here. Happy BBQin'!

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