Happy 2014! Apologies for being off-the-grid for so long- we recently moved into a new place and are lacking internet for the foreseeable future. However I just discovered a lovely coffee shop up the road with wifi, so we’re back! Since the standard New Years resolution tends to involve some sort of get fit/get healthy/diet plan, we’ve decided to start off 2014 with a lovely panzanella salad. This salad is one of my favourites because it incorporates fresh tomatoes (which are in season in Australia right now) and a baguette- making it a vibrant, hearty option that is still healthy. We topped our panzanella with grilled chicken, however I would definitely skip the chicken in the future because the salad is filling enough on its own. We also broke from tradition by including some baby spinach and capers- two inclusions that I would recommend for variety.
For this salad (which generously serves two) you will need the following:
1/2 of a crusty baguette (we used sourdough)
4-5 tomatoes of mixed varieties- heirloom, black russian, roma etc
1 cup baby spinach
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
4-5 sprigs fresh basil leaves
2 tbsps capers
red wine vinegar
1 birds eye chili, chopped (optional)
parmesan cheese, grated, to top (optional- leave out to make keep salad vegan)
salt & pepper, to taste
Begin by tearing your baguette half into large chunks and tossing with EVOO, minimal salt and plenty of pepper. Preheat your oven to 180 C (ugh now that I live in Australia I guess I have to say goodbye to Fahrenheit) and bake bread for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly crunchy.
While the bread is baking, prep the rest of your salad. Cut the tomatoes into large, uneven chunks; a little trick Alex showed me is that cutting the tomatoes at random angles minimizes the juice loss, making for a better salad! In a large bowl, combine the baby spinach, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, chili and capers and mix.
Next comes the dressing. Start with a generous drizzle of EVOO, about 1/4 of a cup. Toss salad again. Then add the red wine vinegar- start with 2 tablespoons and then add to taste. We probably ended up around 3-4 tablespoons of vinegar; Alex just informed me that the proper way to make this dressing is 1/3 red wine vinegar and 2/3 EVOO- use whichever measuring method you prefer. Add salt and pepper to taste- once the salad is dressed, leave to sit for 10 minutes.
After the ten minutes are up, add your toasted bread and basil. Give the salad another toss, and taste to ensure that your dressing still is nicely balanced after the inclusion of the bread. Once you are happy with the dressing, leave the salad to sit for 10-15 minutes so that the bread has a chance to soak up the dressing and soften. We let ours sit for 15 but will probably serve up closer to the 10 minute mark in the future, as Alex felt that the bread became too soft at 15 minutes.
Split salad between two large bowls, top with an extra sprig of fresh basil, parmesan cheese if you’d like (I thought the cheese was unnecessary, Alex thought it was crucial) and a final drizzle of EVOO, and serve! A beautiful meal that takes advantage of summer’s freshest flavours, all while being decidedly guilt-free. Thanks for all of your support during 2013, we couldn’t continue to do this without you guys. Here’s to a happy and fruitful 2014 for us all!