Monday, August 16, 2010

Perfect for a hot summer night .. and Meatless Monday!

As promised last week, I am sharing my recipe for Bread Salad. It's not quite as hot as it was last week (thank goodness), but this is still a wonderful supper. The temperatures were soaring to 95 degrees and things were cooking! There was a heat advisory (extreme heat warning) and heat illness was possible. The National Weather Service recommended that everyone drink plenty of fluids and stay in an air-conditioned room if possible. It was sooooo hot (drum-roll), the chickens were laying hard boiled eggs!

Bread Salad or Panzanella, is an Italian dish originating in the regions of Tuscany and popular in the summer. Though the basic ingredient in panzanella is bread, there's a great deal of room for improvisation. Bread salad also includes fresh tomatoes flavored with basil, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Additional panzanella ingredients vary widely, and can include lettuce, white wine, capers, anchovies, celery, carrots, red wine, red onion, cucumber, tuna, parsley, boiled eggs, mint, bell peppers, lemon juice, and garlic. The concept is a lot like adding croutons to a salad, only better!

The bread used should be day-to-week-old and densely textured. Bread salads date back to the 14th century, although tomatoes weren't added until after the discovery of the New World. For this recipe I used a crusty loaf of Sourdough bread that had been a few days old when I finally stuck it in the freezer. I added garbanzo beans (chickpeas) for extra protein, which undoubtedly makes this a Middle Eastern bread salad! When I make my Italian version, I add diced mozzarella cheese, dried basil and oregano. The salad gets better the longer the flavors are allowed to meld, but we didn't have any leftover.

Middle Eastern-Style Bread Salad With Garbanzo Beans
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 cucumber, cut into rounds and quartered
1 red onion, sliced thin and quartered
1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
4 oz. crumbled feta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
6 slices toasted crusty rustic bread, cut into cubes (I used sourdough)
salt & pepper to taste

Mix the tomato, cucumber, and red onion in a large salad bowl. Toss with the chick peas, feta and bread cubes. Mix together the olive oil, vinegar and seasonings and toss again. You could add black olives to this but I didn't want the extra sodium.

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