Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Hot weather, summertime, tomatoes, and panzanella is just a natural.  It’s worth looking for heirloom tomatoes to make this salad. There are so many different flavors–it’s not just “tomato”.

This post from Savory Simple brings up an issue that we should all be aware of: we are moving toward homogeneous taste as we give up the heirloom varieties.  Check out Save the Flavors and Seeds of Change.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella.

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Gluten-free breads

For those of you who might be interested in gluten-free breads, I wanted to share this link.  I’ve not tried any of the gluten free recipes, since I don’t have an issue with gluten.  I’ve tried breads from both the other five-minutes-a-day breads, and had good results with every recipe I’ve tried.

Available in hardcover, and digital format. Based on my experience with these books, If I needed gluten-free I would certainly give this a try–at least check it out of the library for a trial.

Oat flour bread

While we’re experiencing some really serious winter weather for this part of the country, I couldn’t think of anything I would like better than the aroma and taste of some warm bread.

loaf of bread

oat-flour bread

I got out the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and made bread.  Because we’re having the possibility of power outages and wanted something that would be easy for sandwiches so I made the “Oat Flour Bread” from that book. (I’ve modified that recipe for a more artisan-like bread using barley or oat flour, too).

Here is the recipe for the sandwich-style oat flour bread (summarized from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day).  See the links above for summary of basic method.

Oat Four Bread (pp.104-105)

Ingredients

  • 3-1/4 cups of lukewarm water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons salt (kosher)
  • 1 cup oat (or barley) flour
  • 5-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I always use King Arthur)
  • Neutral tasting fat for oiling pan. P

Preparation

This makes three 1-1/2-pound loaves.

  1. Mix liquid, yeast, and salt in bowl.
  2. Add flours.
  3. Cover (but not airtight) and let rise to double volume.
  4. The dough can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days (actually up to 14 days) just pulling off what you want to bake right then.
  5. Lightly oil a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.
  6. Take a cantaloupe-size piece of dough and lightly flour surface and shape it into a ball or oval and drop into the pan.
  7. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Let rest/rise for about 1 hour 40 minutes for refrigerated dough, or about 40 minutes for freshly made dough, until it has about doubled in size.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes or until nicely browned.
  10. If possible, let cool before cutting–that very seldom happens in my house unless I bake an extra loaf.
  11. If you want it really crusty then follow the procedure with a pan of water in the oven (links above).

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If you like bread but the time for baking doesn’t seem to fit into your schedule, then this technique is worth exploring. Since there is no kneading, and it takes 15 minutes to mix (and clean up) it makes it possible.  I like it for cooking for one since I can easily make a small loaf more often.

I’ve made the pumpernickel (with and without seeds), rye, basic white, brioche, olive oil, and have been pleased with all of them.  I don’t think that the flavor is quite as yeasty as a bread that goes through the traditional method of kneading and several proofings, but it’s as good or better (and much cheaper) than the usual grocery store bread–anything you’ll get short of going to a real artisan bakery.  Once you get started with it, you can modify to your taste, too.  The same authors also have a similar book for healthy and whole grain breads (bibliography).

Cake is in the oven…

…and I’m waiting, none too patiently for it to be done–it smells heavenly: buttery, coffee-y, nutty, with a little caramel-molasses-like overtone from the brown sugar.

(It’s a very easy cake to put together–you don’t even really need to use a mixer–but since it was sitting there on the counter, I did use it.)

The recipe from Promenade Plantings called for walnuts.  I have to confess to not liking English walnuts–even when good and fresh they have a bitter overtone that I don’t like, so I substituted pecans in the recipe since I really like them.

The house is smelling SO good–it smells like it needs some good dark chocolate–hmmmm, coffee, chocolate, and nuts.  If it tastes like my nose tells me it will, I may try it with some chocolate bits in it too. I can already tell that waiting for it too cool is going to be some sort of ordeal!

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Finally, it’s cool enough–just couldn’t stand it any longer. All the time I’ve been smelling it, I’ve resisted making some ganache–so far successfully, but the longer I smell that cake….

OMG, is that every good! Tastes every bit as good as I though it would–and as it smelled. It doesn’t scream coffee at you either–I suspect that even non-coffee drinkers would like this.

I’m enjoying it with a big glass of cold milk right now, but I definitely want to try it with coffee–probably with my breakfast coffee in the morning. This could be habit-forming!

Homemade pita

Freshly made pita is wonderful–and easy and quick once you get the rolling-out part down. I use the doughs from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” and “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” to make pita as well as loaves of bread; here’s an alternative recipe.

Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

To be honest it is probably easier to buy pre-made pitas. Of course these taste much better once you perfect how to roll them.

Make the starter the night before. In a large bowl mix 1 1/4 tsp yeast with 2 1/2 cups warm water. Let yeast dissolve and begin to bubble. Add 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour and mix well. The starter will be the consistency of thick batter. Cover with a wet towel and let ferment over night, or at least 5 hours.

Mix 3 cups flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt into starter and form a rough dough. Knead for 10 minutes adding more flour slowly until dough is smooth and still slightly tacky to the touch.

Heavily oil a bowl with olive oil and place dough in. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough and…

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Barley flour….

I’ve got barley flour now, so I can try the oat bread with barley instead. I like barley as well as oats, so this should be fun (and maybe healthy).  I think I can just substitute barley flour for oat flour, but I guess I should do a little research on the two before I do, though.

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

lots of tomatoes laid out on table

tomatoes, tomatoes…

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes! So many ways to eat tomatoes…caprese salad, good old-fashioned tomato sandwiches–good white bread, mayonnaise, and juicy tomatoes; a sandwich that has to be eaten over the kitchen sink.   Then there is the BLT!  All good, but what else can you do with the summer abundance of tomatoes? Obviously  you can freeze some, or make sauce to freeze for winter use,  but one of my summer favorites is panzanella, or bread salad.  Since stale bread is a fact of life, even when you bake your own pretty much “on demand”, here is one of my favorite ways to use it up and to enjoy summer tomatoes.

This is a summary and adaptation of  my “go-to” recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (pp. 554-555):

Ingredients

  • 1/2 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2-3 flat anchovy fillets, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon capers, soaked and rinsed
  • 1/4 yellow bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon good red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups firm bread (cut into 1/2-inch squared), trimmed of crust and toasted
  • 3 fresh, ripe, firm tomatoes
  • 1 cup cucumber cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
  • fresh-ground black pepper and salt to taste

Preparation

  • Mash the garlic, anchovies, and capers to a paste.
  • Toss  the pepper, garlic, anchovy, olive oil, and vinegar together in a bowl.
  • Put the toasted bread (and any crumbs) in a small bowl.
  • Purée one tomato in food mill; add to bread an allow it to steep for 15 minutes or longer.
  • Skin and seed the other 2 tomatoes and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (picking out some of the seeds if there are too many).
  • Add the cut tomatoes and the bread squares to the bowl with pepper, garlic, anchovy, oil and vinegar mix, and  add the cucumber and the onion; toss thoroughly.

While the recipe calls for peeling the tomatoes, I don’t usually do this unless the skins are very tough–I’ve no objection to the extra fiber, and some objection to the extra work that peeling them takes.  I don’t pick out seeds either–I think that the “jelly” surrounding the seeds adds extra flavor and an acidity that is lost by removing them–however, if you want a more refined version, by all means peel and remove seeds. (If you keep the “jelly” and seeds, it increases the tartness of the tomatoes, so you might want to decrease the wine vinegar–just taste it and season accordingly.) You can add fresh herbs of your choice–basil, marjoram, oregano, Syrian oregano (zaatar)–whatever strikes your fancy!

If this cookbook is not in your library, there is also a recipe for a simpler version of panzanella at Epicurious.com.

If you’d like to make this a meal in itself, add some good quality canned tuna or your homemade tuna confit to it. Cucumbers and onions are certainly optional.  Some fresh mozzarella would work here too.

The basic recipe above makes four to six servings, but it’s very easy to cut this down to make a single-serving quantity–just eyeball it!

I decided that this had potential for a bacon, lettuce and tomato salad so I did some modification: omitted the anchovies, capers, and the pepper.  I prepared the bread and the tomatoes as for the panzanella, and substituted balsamic (or rice wine) vinegar.  I kept the cucumber for it’s crunch and freshness and the sweet onion, even though they are not part of the BLT.  I added crumbled crisp bacon, and had this over romaine lettuce.

Since I did this improvisation  (it just wasn’t something that I needed a recipe for), I’ve googled “BLT salad” and found lots of variations on that theme, especially with the dressing.  Since I’m one who does like mayonnaise with my BLT, I’ve looked for dressings using it, but haven’t found anything I like better than the basic oil and vinegar, though I may be adventurous and try a creamy dressing with mayonnaise, thinned with buttermilk in the future.

A son goût!