Sunday, August 24, 2008

Panzanella: a Balm for Grad School Phobias

Grad school starts tomorrow. I'm spazzing out.

I wish I could tell why I'm spazzing. It's not the the material, it's not the return to the papers-and-problem sets rhythm of life, and surprisingly it's not concern that Do and I are going to lose our daily dinners routine. I think it's the people. I'm worried about the social networking component, which seems ever so much more important in a Masters program than in college. I'm talking about the semi-professional relationship building, not the making new friends part. Eep! My tummy is churning just thinking about it. Maybe I should crawl back into bed and read sci-fi.

I've been leaning towards comfort food recently. Surprise, surprise.

Panzanella started as a way to use up leftover Sourdough, and ended as summer's equivalent of beef stew (insert your go-to winter comfort food here). This Italian salad is fresh and flavorful and light, yet also satisfyingly filling (because of the bread). It's the perfect summer dish: it uses leftovers, it's fast, requires no heat, it's beautiful, and it's so good that Do had to restrain himself from adding it to our "All Time Favorites" list. (He's worried that we use the term too liberally. I think that we just cook damn fine food on a regular basis).

And it's addictive. Maybe we'll start a new category, a tier 2 All Time Favorites, and label it "Addictive." As in, you can't keep yourself from going back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths....

The flavor is great. You know how satisfying it is to dip your bread in oil&vinegar at an Italian restaurant, while you're waiting for the food to come? Top quality bread, dripping with yumminess but not soggy (Do feels very strongly that soggy = bad). Add the crunch of red onion and the freshness of basil, the lightness of cucumber and a whole lot of perfectly ripe summer tomatoes. It's summer in a bowl.

Panzanella from Gourmet Cookbook
Serves 4-6.

1/2 lb day old crusty sourdough bread (or another thick, dense bread), cut into 3/4" cubes (6 cups)
4 large tomatoes (1 1/4 lb total), cut into 3/4" pieces OR 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 seedless cucumber, cut into 1/2" pieces.
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves.

Stir together bread, tomatoes, cucumber, and onion in a serving bowl.
Whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add to bread mixture, along with basil, and toss to combine. Let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for 20 min before serving.


SaintTigerlily said...

Mouth watering pictures. Thank you so much for giving me something to do with my toooo many tomatoes.

Michael said...

Hey, I've got some sourdough rolls that can use this treatment! Thanks!

kat said...

I'm betting you are going to just fine at school! good luck!

Psychgrad said...

I like the looks of the salad. I have never added bread to a salad (unless you include croutons). Wouldn't letting it stand and mixing occasionally for 20 minute not make the bread soggy?

Good luck with your first day. Try not to stress too much about the dinner routine. You guys will figure out a routine It may mean doing more preparation during free time or more simple meals during the week. But you'll make it work.

tigerfish said...

It looks really comforting..I'm sure this dish could comfort you :)

noble pig said...

OMGosh you are going to do great! I know you will and this salad is perfection.

Adam said...

You're so right, bread and dunking is so comforting. Maybe it goes back to oreos and milk :)

School starts for you again? Good luck. I know what you mean about networking, it's just as important with who you know, as to what you know.

Tell Do I agree with soggy=bad

melissa said...

He's worried that we use the term too liberally. I think that we just cook damn fine food on a regular basis


I'm not surprised you found this so enthralling. I've been making a bit of stuff like this recently - simple but with fresh, delicious, seasonal ingredients. And I have had a couple of new addictions myself because of it. Thanks for another one. ;)

Best of luck with school. I trust you're going to be just fine!

Krysta said...

have a good day at school tomorrow. you'll do well, i know it.

Ginny said...

Good luck! I was nervous starting too...but realized it is nothing to be afraid of...I've never tried panzanella, even though my favorite restuarant is called panzanella...mmm... :)