Summerfest is on. As in, make the most of the fresh veggies while you’ve still got them. And if you can do it while only needing the oven for a mere two minutes, even better (oh the joys of a hot and humid tennessee august).
This panzanella, or bread salad, is a great way to keep things fresh and flavorful in the midst of the summer heat. The bread is drizzled in the salad’s juices, then broiled just until it is barely crisp, and topped with the chunky mix of fresh tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and onion. It’s a bit tricky to eat, but worth every messy bite.
I’ve realized that heirloom tomatoes are best enjoyed raw, in their purest form. Cooked, you can’t tell the difference between a cherokee purple and a regular old big boy, so why bother using the expensive stuff? But raw… well… I wouldn’t have them any other way. Not to mention they are beautiful, their bold reds and yellows, gradients of greens and even purples, it’d be a shame to cook all that color right out of them. Yes, I confess we used heirloom tomatoes on our recent pizza experiment, and while it was delicious, it would have been just as delicious with any vine-ripened specimen.
Save those precious heirlooms for something that really brings out their best. Drizzled with a hint of olive oil and tossed with fresh basil and cucumber, all on a slice of freshly baked rustic baguette, well, I don’t think it gets any better than that.
Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
Makes 4 servings. Recipe from Epicurious.
3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 medium cucumber, julienned and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 tablespoon fresh basil, torn into large pieces
3 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 whole-wheat baguette, cut into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices
8 basil leaves
Toss first 6 ingredients in a bowl; season with salt and pepper; let stand 30 minutes. Drizzle 1 tablespoon liquid from mixture over bread; broil each side until golden; top with 2 tablespoon tomato mixture. Garnish with basil leaves.