Friday, August 20, 2010

PGG's Panzanella

It seems like forever ago that I told you all to buy the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook. Have you bought it yet? Because if you have, then this post is probably completely unnecessary, but if you HAVEN'T then I'm sharing my new favorite recipe with you. (I'm not quite sure if it's my absolute favorite, but it's definitely up there.)

Panzanella is a bread salad based in the idea of "cucina povera"--poor cooking. This also includes things like Minestrone, so I'm pretty sure Italians are just geniuses when it comes to cooking with not much in the way of funds. This is the recipe that I spent about an hour staring at after I bought Poor Girl Gourmet, trying to figure out exactly how it worked (bread salad? really?) and what "ricotta salata" was (and whether my grocery store would carry it).

There are lots of reasons to make Panzanella for dinner. Have some day-old bread? Excellent. Don't feel like actually cooking? Great! Leftover chicken? Wonderful. Tomato/basil/mint plants going crazy? Perfect. In the mood for a light dinner? Well, here you go! Seriously. Any excuse is good enough and this is the easiest thing in the world to make and toss together. If you don't have day old bread lying around, there's probably a rack of day-old baked goods at your grocery store. There isn't one at mine, of course, but that didn't stop me--I just sliced it up fairly thick and toasted it first. (I mean, toasting is sort of the same thing as making bread go slightly stale really quickly. Sorry if I just ruined toast for you.)

I only have one picture here because it's way too easy to require multiple pictures, though if you really want pictures of bread cut into cubes then I'm sure I can get some to you next time I make this.

Hmm. It doesn't look nearly as completely gorgeous as it tastes, though it looks better in the cookbook. This is also before I figured out the right setting on my camera. Anyway, if this picture doesn't look mouthwatering to you, ignore it and try the recipe.

RECIPE: Panzanella
Adapted very slightly from the Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook

-1/2 lb day-old bread (the cookbook recommends ciabatta, which my grocery store doesn't sell--I went with a completely different country and used a multigrain boule, and I'm sticking with it)
-3 medium tomatoes (large on the vine tomatoes)
-1 medium shallot
-1/4 pound feta cheese crumbles (book recommends ricotta salata; again, my grocery store doesn't carry it, but I love the feta)
-1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
-1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
-2 leftover thin-sliced chicken breasts (or equivalent amount of cooked chicken), shredded (this is completely my addition and therefore you can leave it out for a vegetarian version)
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1. Chop the bread and tomatoes into cubes. Put them in a large bowl. Mince the shallot and add that, along with the feta, basil, mint, and chicken. Let sit for about 20 minutes to half an hour.
2. Mix together the oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour it over the bread salad. Stir. Eat.\

It seriously doesn't get any easier than that, and I can't get over how good this is. I added the chicken to make it a more filling meal than just a salad, but it's absolutely not necessary. And I can't help thinking how easy it would be to adapt--tomatoes are out of season now? People are eating squashes? I can add some squash, okay. Cool. The best part? You're serving four people for under $10. If you buy things on sale, it's a lot under $10.

Of course I'm going to tell you again to go buy that cookbook, but also don't forget to check out her blog. It is just as lovable!

And speaking of blog love, you should also go check out Pixie's most recent post. She loved my blog so much that it inspired her to start documenting her food! I'm so flattered! And I must say her stuffed chicken breasts look delicious; she seems to have the "presentation" thing down much better than I do, too.