August 27, 2009
Ina's Greek Panzanella
The first time I made Panzanella, I thought, "Where has this been all my life?" My mom tried it and said, "This is like all the best parts of the salad without any of the boring lettuce!" While lettuce has it's place, I'll admit I'm still extra fond of panzanella. So when I watched Ina make a Greek version, it took all self control to refrain from running to the store and making it right then, in the middle of nap time. I held off until Monday so we could put in our Greek dinner for my brother's birthday. It was simple and delicious and even all those boys gobbled it down. I made a huge recipe and there wasn't a piece left over. With peppers and tomatoes on sale all over right now, I'm sure I'll be making it again soon.
A few tips that will make this salad extra special:
*Use English cucumbers so you don't have to peel them- the color will look better too (wish I had had these, but they were three times the cost so I just had to deal with the regulars!)
*Use two plastic lids (from deli or tupperware containers) to cut the cherry tomatoes- just fill one to the rim with tomatoes, invert the second lid and set on top of the other, and use a serrated knife to saw through them while applying a little pressure on top. Takes all of 30 seconds to cut a whole pint.
*Good feta is vital! Yes feta has a unique taste, but it shouldn't taste rotten (like the cheap kind usually does to me). Try Trader Joe's for a Greek made feta stored in brine. It tastes like the real deal.
*Watch the bread closely. Don't go check your email while it's toasting. It's a good thing I'd bought two loaves since I had to completely start over and didn't quite get the burnt smell out before the party... oops!
from Ina Garten
Good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, large diced
1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
For the vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed.
Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.
For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.