It’s Hot here. That’s Hot with a capital H for ya, because you see, Dutch houses generally don’t have air conditioning and the temperature in my living room went up to 85 today. It was 85! Argh. I just can’t cook in this kind of heat so in stead we made tons of grilled chicken, steaks and fish on the BBQ and I served salads with it. Simple, tasty and gorgeous salads. Big chunks of fresh flat-bread on the side. It’s the best summer food anyway.
This is a personal favorite of mine: Insalata Panzanella. It’s just as good as my Insalata Surprise. Panzanella is an amazing Tuscan summer bread salad! The bread soaks up the lovely tomato juices and dressing making it irresistible to bread lovers such as myself.
I do give my panzanella a slight Kayotic twist. Like you expected anything else, huh?
8 oz fresh tomatoes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
fresh lemon juice
small bell pepper
1 garlic clove
1/3 red onion
1/2 an avocado
2 tbsp oil
* I’ve made a salad for two
Most Italian salads are simple, so using good quality ingredients is important. I’ve used the best there are; homegrown tomatoes. I tried to grow some bell peppers as well this year but well, as you can see in the photo below, it wasn’t really a success. These two tiny peppers are all I have to show for my hard labor.
Grab a large garlic clove, cut it in half and rub it all over the bowl you’ll be serving the salad in. This will add a lovely yet mild garlic flavor.
Wash and coarsely chop your tomatoes. I love how red they look.
Plunge them in the bowl. This bowl is so old but I just can’t do away with it, it looks summery to me.
Chop the bell pepper. As tiny as they were, it was the perfect amount for this salad and their flavor was unsurpassed. Especially the sweet pointed (baby) pepper was fabulous. Add them to the tomatoes.
Thinly slice the red onion. No big chunks, okay? No salad benefits from that.
Grab a handful of fresh basil leaves.
Dig your hands in there and mix up the vegetables. Rip up the basil leaves and add those as well.
The whole idea of a panzanella is to release the tomato juices and let it blend in with the dressing, so I sprinkle some salt all over to get those tomato juices flowing. Kayotic Kitchen goes decadent, I’m using my beloved Fleur de Sel for this.
Season generously (real generously) with salt and crack some black pepper on top.
Time to make the dressing. Mine is pretty basic: I combine 2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil with 1 tbsp red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice. The dressing thickens when you stir it.
Pour the dressing all over the vegetables and combine. I love working with my hands, but you can use a spoon as well. Set the bowl aside for a little while to allow the flavors to blend.
Another key ingredient to panzanella is bread. Or should I say Ciabatta? You can use regular bread, you can toast it first, or toss it in a skillet with some oil, but I like to use the bread as is. I wouldn’t dream of using regular bread, a panzanella without ciabatta is no panzanella to me, that’s sacrilege.
The whole point of adding bread is that it sucks up the juices, so toasting it just doesn’t make sense to me either. I simply break the ciabatta in coarse pieces, add it to the vegetables and carefully combine it.
Now this is not part of an original Panzanella (as far as I know), but it does give it a little extra flavor. At least I like to think it does. I thinly slice half an avocado (inside the skin) and use the back of my knife to gently scoop out the slices.
Randomly add the avocado slices to the salad.
Garnish the salad with a few whole basil leaves and serve with a nice piece of grilled whitefish topped with a dollop of green pesto. Now that’s food as food was meant to be. Simple, honest and assolutamente squisito.