While formulating the narrative to accompany the following recipes, I couldn’t help but smile when a little anecdote from a weekend in April that I spent with my brother came to mind. I had probed him about the details of his dating life, and we chatted about the complex differences between men and women, and how they make dating in college somewhat of an anthropological experiment. One of the more offbeat and funny things he lamented was: “you know Kels, you girls sing everything. Seriously. When girls are talking about the most random stuff, or when they’re getting dinner at the dining hall or whatever there is always like one word in their sentence that they just have to sing.” He is so right. Since then, I have found myself in the kitchen looking through my utensil drawer saying “spatula, where arrrrrre youuuuu?” and in other situations where phrases and questions need a little oomph.
Panzanella is one of those words that I just can’t say without a little rhythm. Try it, you’ll see: “What ingredients do I need for this Panzanellllllla?” Or to the tune of the Cinderella mice: “Panzanelly, Panzanelly!” Too far? I digress.
Panzanella is one of the best dishes to serve at a dinner party or backyard barbecue because it’s at once incredibly simple and sophisticated. Panzanella literally means bread salad, and is traditionally served with anchovies, tomatoes, and basil. There are endless ways to serve it up, so go ahead and get creative!
Here is “Panzanelllllllllla” three ways to help get you started.
Kelsey Brown writes about healthy hearts, minds and bodies for Small Kitchen College and Happyolks. She’s been “green”-bagging it to her internship with a veggie wrap, kombucha tea, and stone fruits.
Strawberry Panzanella from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
A few pinches of fine grain salt
1 pound loaf of hearty, substantial day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 pint basket of ripe strawberries, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
a 7 or 8 ounce container of plain Greek yogurt
poppy seeds for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large pot melt the butter. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves and remove from the heat. Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Arrange the bread out onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast for about 15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes to make sure all bread surface areas get golden and crunchy.
In the meantime, place half the chopped strawberries in a small bowl and mash them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Keep mashing until berries are super juicy and appetizingly chunky – this is your dressing.
When the bread cubes are done toasting (and have had a few minutes to cool and crisp up), toss them in a big bowl with the mashed berries. Add the remaining chopped strawberries and toss a bit more. Give the yogurt a good stir, and serve on the side garnished with poppy seeds (feel free to sweeten it a bit to your liking).
BLT Panzanella from Meredith at What’s For Lunch?
1/2 large loaf ciabatta bread, cubed
3 ounces slab bacon, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of 1/4 lemon
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon bacon drippings
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 small to medium sized tomatoes, largely diced
3 handfuls arugula or spinach, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°. In a single layer on a cookie sheet, place cubed bread. Toast in oven until golden and dried through completely. In a medium sized saute pan, cook bacon until slightly crispy and nicely browned. Remove to paper towels, reserve 1 tsp drippings. Combine the dijon, lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together bacon drippings and olive oil, then add in a slow stream to Dijon mixture. Toss tomatoes, bacon, bread, salt and fresh cracked black pepper with dressing. Just before serving, toss in arugula.
Roasted Beet and Carrot Panzanella from Happyolks
3 medium golden beets, and 3 medium red beets, stems trimmed
1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
juice of 1 lemon, divided
2-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 cloves of garlic, minced, plus more for roasting
salt and pepper
8 carrots cut into sticks
2 cups of 1 inch cubed (leftover) multi-grain loaf
1/2 cup goat cheese
Directions from yours truly
Preheat oven to 425°. Wrap beets with a splash of water, some of the olive oil, lemon juice, 2 sprigs of thyme, a few cloves of garlic, salt and pepper tightly in foil with skin, then roast 1 hour . Carefully unwrap, and when cool, rub off skins with a paper towel and discard. Chop beets into 1/2″ cubes and transfer to a bowl.
When there is about 15 minutes left on the timer for the beets, toss carrots and chopped bread with olive oil, garlic, and a little lemon in a bowl, then bake on a cookie sheet with parchment paper until the timer runs out. As soon as you pull the beets out, switch the oven over to broil mode and move the carrots to the top rack. As the beets cool, keep a close eye on the oven to make sure things don’t go up in flames. The carrots should be slightly browned and the croutons crispy.
When all the components are done, mix together well in a large bowl with goat cheese and extra leaves of thyme and some salt and pepper to taste. Viola. Soft, buttery beets and carrots, crispy croutons, and creamy goat cheese. Bon Appetit!