Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Panzanella: An Open Letter

NOTE #1: Today on Serious Eats: Greek Salad Skewers from Giada DeLaurentiis. This no-cook, veggie heavy, completely delicious appetizer can only mean one thing: the big-bosomed Italian scores again.

NOTE #2: Sweet readers! July is NO-COOK MONTH here at Cheap Healthy Good. Starting with Leigh’s Veggie Might column on Thursday and continuing through August 1st, all our recipes will be heating implement-free. (Because frankly, we Noo Yawkuhs are freakin’ dyin' ovah heah.) See you then!

Dear Panzanella,

I admit it. You had me fooled.

I knew you were essentially bread and tomato salad. I knew you included other foods – olives, onions, herbs – for kicks. I knew people liked you, and you were a staple of Italian cuisine.

But I never considered you to be healthy.

You seemed to be excessively rich. You had too much olive oil. You contained obscene amounts of cheese.

How much cheese constitutes an “obscene” amount of cheese? It’s a lot, lemme tell you.

So, I never made you, Panzanella.

Oh, I dreamt of you, to be sure. Your squishy, tomato-soaked baguette. Your red onion crescents, just enough to provide a little punch. Your fresh basil, sprinkled like verdant ribbons across the plate.

But then, one day, Moosewood’s Simple Suppers came along. Finding the cookbook was a fluke. Serendipity. A trip to the library gone wonderfully right. Five recipes tried, five winners consumed.

And you were the last.

And you were the best.

You had so much flavor, and so little extraneous oil. Heck, to be totally honest, the first night, I even found you a tiny bit dry. But when Husband-Elect slaughtered two filled-to-the-brim bowls without coming up for air, I knew we were on to something.

It’s pretty common knowledge that if you let certain foods sit for a day or two (chili, soup, etc.) their flavors will meld and improve. Boy, Panzanella, was that ever the case with you.

Forty-eight hours later, you were PERFECT. I could have cried.

I almost did, when I finally finished you.

Summer Panzanella, we can be friends now, right? I’ll make you. You’ll feed me. We’ll all be healthy and happy.

If not, just promise you’ll write.

I love you, as much as any woman can love bread salad.

Wish you were here,


If you think this looks like something you might want to eat, you might also want to indulge in:

Summer Panzanella
Serves 4.
Adapted from Moosewood’s Simple Suppers.

1 loaf crusty whole wheat French or Italian Bread (about 8 cups)
4 tomatoes, diced (seeding is optional)
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded (cut into ribbons)
2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinaigrette (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2) Fill a small bowl with ice water. Soak red onions ten minutes. Drain.

3) Slice bread in half lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet and bake 5 to 10 minutes, until crisp. Remove and let cool a little. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.

4) To a large serving bowl, add tomatoes, mozzarella, red onion, basil leaves, and olives. Pour red wine vinegar and olive oil over mixture. Stir to combine.

5) Add bread to bowl. Stir thoroughly to combine. Let sit 30 minutes to marinate, stirring once about halfway through. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir again. Serve immediately with vinaigrette if you like OR store it in the fridge for a day or two, then serve. It will be phenomenal.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
320 calories, 13.1 g fat, 5.2 g fiber, 14 g protein, $1.86

NOTE: Numbers for the whole wheat baguette are averaged from Fresh Direct and Calorie King, but your overall calculations may be slightly different depending on your choice of bread. (Oh, and the size of your olives. Mine were pretty huge.) Consequently, take the math this time around to be a bit more of an approximation than usual.

1 loaf crusty whole wheat French or Italian Bread (about 8 cups): 580 calories, 5.1 g fat, 13.3 g fiber, 23.1 g protein, $1.99
4 tomatoes: 89 calories, 1 g fat, 5.9 g fiber, 4.3 g protein, $1.96
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella: 288 calories, 18 g fat, 0 g fiber, 27.5 g protein, $0.99
1/2 medium red onion: 23 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.8 g fiber, 0.5 g protein, $0.21
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves: 6 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.8 g fiber, 0.5 g protein, $0.99
2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives: 175 calories, 15 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $1.11
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.03
1 tablespoon olive oil: 118 calories, 13.4 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.12
Kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
Freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
TOTAL: 1279 calories, 52.3 g fat, 20.8 g fiber, 55.9 g protein, $7.42
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 320 calories, 13.1 g fat, 5.2 g fiber, 14 g protein, $1.86

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