Those of you who have been visiting here for a while, know that I regularly cook along with my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs, and that for the last five months we have been cooking the food of the lovely Tessa Kiros. As we choose a different chef to inspire us every six months, we only have one more month to spend with Tessa. I have been loving delving into her books, and would love to add more of them to my collection; sadly, budget constraints means an embargo on cookbook buying right now. Nevertheless, without buying another book I still have more recipes bookmarked in my existing collection than I will be able to cook in the remaining month. I could happily spend another six months with Tessa.
Anyways, our theme this week is "Lighten Up!" All my friends in the northern hemisphere, approaching the tail end of a long winter of carb-loading and casseroles, are getting in the mood for spring and some lighter fare. Being at the fag end of summer, as we are here in the southern hemisphere, we have salad produce not just in abundance, but at their very best, so this week's theme was right up my alley (which is not always the case).
With tomatoes and peppers in great supply right now, and reasonably priced to boot, I decided to go with an adaptation of Tessa's Panzanella from her book Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book, and as this is a book I haven't used before this will also be my contribution this week to Cookbook Sundays. If you've been delving into your cookbooks lately, I'd love you to share your post with me and my friends who are trying to get those cookbooks down off the bookshelves and onto the kitchen bench. Keep reading for full details on how to participate.
As I so often do, I used Tessa's recipe as inspiration, but made a few tweeks and changes to make it my own. Now, there are probably panzanella rules, with a strict list of ingredients that are allowed to be included, and I have most likely broken every panzanella rule known to the Tuscan housewife. Maybe Alessandra can help me out here. Alessandra is Italian, and is also a fellow Kiwi blogger, and she is the one who calls us on it and keeps us honest when we take liberties with traditional Italian fare - we learn a lot from her and I, for one, am always grateful for her advice - so maybe she can tell me a thing or two about panzanella. Perhaps to play it safe I will call my version a panzanella-inspired salad.
This is a rustic salad, the basic premise of which is to use up stale, leftover bread - I love dishes which come about in this way. The bread is soaked to soften it, then it is crumbled through the salad. In Tessa's recipe she begins by cutting up tomatoes, putting them in a colander, sprinkling with salt, and standing for a while to allow the juice to drain away. She then goes on to soak the bread in water. Why, I thought, soak bread in water when you are draining off all that beautiful, flavourful juice from the tomatoes. "Two birds, one stone" - I drained my tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl containing the bread cubes. Tessa includes celery in her recipe which I omitted, and I added in a few extras - roasted red peppers (wish I'd used yellow actually, just because the colour contrast would have looked prettier), garlic, capers and black olives. I'm sure there are plenty of other things you could put in this, though I would say that bread, tomatoes and basil are the critical ingredients and most importantly, do not even contemplate making this with anything less than tomatoes picked at the height of the season - out of season, hothouse tomatoes will absolutely not do for this.
Inspired by a recipe by Tessa Kiros
Note: Quantities are not critical here - simply use this recipe as a guide and adjust quantities and ingredients to suit what you have on hand
day-old bread - I used 2/3 of a loaf of ciabatta bread
perfectly ripe tomatoes - I used 4 large tomatoes
red or yellow peppers - I used 3 red peppers
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
white wine vinegar
clove of garlic, finely chopped
capers - a small handful
black olives - a large handful
flat-leaf parsley - generous handful, roughly chopped
basil leaves - generous handful, roughly torn
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Place peppers in a shallow baking dish, and roast in the preheated oven, turning from time to time, until the skin has blackened in places on all sides, and the peppers are slightly soft. Remove from the oven and put the peppers into a plastic bag. Set aside for about 10 minutes to sweat - this will enable the skins to slide off easily. When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off the peppers and discard, at the same time removing and discarding the seeds and core. Tear or chop the flesh of the peppers up into largish pieces and set aside.
Cut the bread into largish cubes and put into a large bowl.
Set a strainer over the bowl, cut the tomatoes into quarters and scoop the seeds out into the strainer. Using the back of a spoon, press as much juice as you can through the strainer and toss the bread well in the juice. Discard the seeds from the strainer, set the strainer back over the bowl, and put the tomato quarters into the strainer. Sprinkle with a little flaky sea salt, to draw out a little more juice, and allowing it to drain into the bread. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes.
Put the onion slices into a small bowl, cover with cold water, sprinkle with a little salt and add a splash of white wine vinegar. Leave to stand for 10 minutes.
Remove the tomato quarters from the strainer, tear or roughly chop into pieces and add to the bread in the bowl. Add the chopped garlic, peppers and drained onions, along with the capers, olives, and chopped and torn herbs. Drizzle liberally with the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Toss well, taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, and serve.
If you would like to get to know Tessa a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...
... or check out Falling Cloudberries and many of Tessa's other great titles available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.
Now read on to learn more about Cookbook Sundays.
If you're anything like me you have dozens of cookbooks gathering dust on your bookshelves, some of which have never even been cooked from. Sure I spent hours browsing through them when I first bought them, marking all the recipes I was going to make with little post-it notes, and yet still those books languish in the bookcase and never make it to the kitchen. There are others from which I have made but one recipe which was such a resounding success that I've made it over and over again, and yet somehow I've never made anything else from that book. Sound a bit familiar?!
Take comfort - you are not alone, and now Cookbook Sundays is your opportunity to change that. Every Sunday I'm going to share with you a recipe that I haven't made before from one of my ever expanding collection of cookbooks. And, because I know that if you have read this far then you are guilty of this too, I'm inviting you to join in with me. Each week my Cookbook Sundays post will have a linky for you to share something you've cooked from one of your cookbooks.
The rules for joining in are simple:
- Your post must state the author and the title of the book your recipe has come from.
- Your post must mention Cookbook Sundays and link back to this post. Including the Cookbook Sundays badge is optional, but always appreciated.
- You may submit as many entries as you like, and you may use the same cookbook as many times as you like. Old posts are also welcome.
- Lastly, remember that what goes around, comes around - one of the reasons you are participating in this is because you want people to read your posts, so do the right thing and go and visit a few of the other participants - you can even "Like" your favourites.
Now, go and dust off those cookbooks and get cooking! Use the linky tool at the end of this post to submit your entry/entries - simply scroll down to where it says "You are next ... Click here to enter", and then follow the instructions. The linky will be open for one week.
Lastly, if you would like to use the Cookbook Sundays badge in your post, simply copy the code in the box beside the badge below and paste it into your post. Feel free to also use it in your sidebar if you wish.