Friday, June 21, 2013

Fresh Tomato Salad & Panzanella Longings

For years, panzanella has been my signature summer salad.  It's a classic Italian dish that was a way to use up stale bread as the croutons.  If I must say, my homemade croutons were AH-MAZING.  But then life has a funny way of throwing you curveballs, and mine arrived in the form of a gluten allergy.  So while I gladly trade all those delightful carbs for the ability to feel human every day, panzanella is one dish I do miss, as I've yet to find a gluten-free bread that will really fit the French bread bill needed to make the croutons.  But that hasn't stopped me from regularly turning tomatoes into a wonderful, fresh, and fragrant summer salad.  Served as a side or topped with grilled chicken, these bright flavors are the essence of summer, and for those of you growing fresh herbs, it's a great way to use up any basil that's growing like crazy.  And so no one else has to miss out on the tastebud joy that is panzanella, I'll include the extra steps and ingredients for that at the end.

Fresh Tomato Salad (with Panzanella adaptation below)

1.5 - 2 lbs tomatoes, seeded and diced (I'll often mix red and yellow tomatoes)
1/2 sweet onion, minced
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 tsp Kosher salt
black pepper to taste
2 cups arugula

In a large bowl, mix together tomato, onion and garlic.  Pour olive oil and lemon juice over top and toss to fully coat.  Add in chopped basil and tarragon, and season with salt and pepper, tossing to evenly blend all ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Toss with arugula and serve.

Panzanella Croutons

1/4 cup butter (use Earth Balance margarine or coconut oil for dairy free)
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
6 cups cubed French Bread
Kosher salt & pepper, to taste (I've also added some herbs de provence, as well)
6 Tbsp grated Parmesan (can substitute vegan parmesan for dairy free)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add breadcrumbs and toss to evenly coat.  Season with salt and pepper and pour bread out onto a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan, tossing to coat, and bake for 8 or 9 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.  Allow to cool before tossing with the rest of the salad.

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