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Monday, February 28, 2011

Winter Panzanella Salad

Day old bread. People all across the world have different ways to use it. You can use it to make croutons or homemade breadcrumbs, turn it into a decadent bread pudding or French toast, use them to thicken soups and stews (as I do in my Ribolitta and Roasted Garlic Soup recipes), or make a bread salad. For most of you that know me, you know I HATE throwing food away. I always challenge myself to use up all the food and produce that I have on hand, and bread is no exception. With it just being Andrew and I, when we purchase a fresh loaf of bread we almost always have quite a bit left over the next day.

Panzanella is a bread salad that originated in
central Italy. It almost always contains cubed stale bread and tomatoes dressed in olive oil and vinegar, but can contain a host of other ingredients as well (basil, cucumber, bell pepper, lettuce, olives, and onions are not uncommon additions). I love making this salad during the late summer months, when the heirloom tomatoes are at their peak of deliciousness and abundance. But I shouldn't get too far ahead of myself. While we've had some (albeit minor and fleeting) glimpses of warmer weather, we are still looking at a good four months before we've reached summer tomato season (I know, that was a harsh thing to say). But, as usually happens to me at the point of the year, my produce cravings are far ahead of nature's seasonal produce schedule. I accept it and, knowing that buying one of those pale red, mealy, artificially ripened fruit that supermarkets like to pass off as tomatoes is out of the question, I amend my ways.

This version is my Winter Panzanella Salad. Instead of delicate summer greens, I use hearty radicchio. In stead of cucumber I use savory caramelized Brussels sprouts. Instead of fresh basil, I use heartier herbs like sage and thyme. I use fresh mozzarella that was made in NY state from
the milk of pastured-raised NJ cows (love that!), and some crisped up cubes of pancetta or thick-cut bacon. Dress it in an herbed anchovy vinaigrette and WOW! A salad that is crunchy and creamy, salty and savory, and just plain good.

In a couple months, I'll probably replace the Brussels with some (maybe grilled?) chopped asparagus. That would be a fantastic modification. And I'll just keep making those modifications as the eagerly awaited new produce begins appearing at the farmers markets.

But until then, this one will do, and it will do just fine. And when I say "just fine", I really mean that this version may be my personal favorite version of a Panzanella salad. Big statement, I know, but I did put a fair amount of thought into it before saying it.
Winter Panzanella Salad

2 tbsp butter
a few sage sprigs, minced
a few thyme sprigs, minced
4 c. day-old crusty bread, cubed
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta or thick-cut bacon, small dice
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cubed
1 head radiccio, torn

Dressing:
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tbsp balsalmic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
a few sage leaves, minced
1 thyme sprig, miced
salt & pepper

Quarter Brussels sprouts and blanch in boiling, salted water for 1-2 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer to an ice bath or run under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add minced sage and thyme and stir a few seconds until fragrant. Pour herbed butter over cubed bread on a sheet pan. Toss in grated Parmesan cheese, season generously with salt and pepper and bake at 450 for about 6 minutes until bread is slightly crunchy. Right after removing from the oven, toss is 2 minced garlic cloves. Set aside.

Coat Brussels sprouts lightly with olive oil and roast at 450 for about 15 minutes until caramelized.While they are roasting, saute the pancetta or thick cut bacon over medium-low heat until crisp.

Make dressing by combining the anchovy paste, garlic and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Stir in herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble salad by combining all ingredients (bread, Brussels sprouts, pancetta, mozzarella and radicchio) in a large bowl. Toss with dressing and serve.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spiced Ginger Tea

Cooking with MAVEA: Seasonal Brooklyn's Ginger Spiced Tea Recipe from MAVEA Inspired Water on Vimeo.

Spiced Ginger Tea

3. cup filtered water
1 1/2" piece fresh ginger
1 (heaping) tbsp black tea leaves
1/2 c. whole milk
2 tbsp honey
dash of cinnamon

Peel and slice ginger. Bring water a boil, add ginger and let simmer for 10 minutes. Lower heat, add tea leaves and let steep for 10 minutes.

Strain into a blender. Add in milk and honey and blend well. Return to pot and rewarm over low heat. Serve topped with a dash of cinnamon.