Panzanella Bread Salad

It’s so hard to find good tomatoes these days. I’m not sure why that is. I remember summer tomatoes when I was a kid that were amazing. They were full of flavor and we would eat them on their own with a little sprinkle of salt. Of course, my parents grew tomatoes in their back yard so that’s probably why they were so good…they were perfectly fresh and ripened on the vine. The tomatoes that you find at the store or even at farm markets often don’t taste like much and don’t really compare to the ones I remember.

However, a little while back I did find some at Whole Foods that were grown at a local farm, and they were the best I’ve had in a long time. If you have some end of summer tomatoes and are looking for a good recipe, this is a classic dish that really showcases the tomatoes. It was also a good way to use up some of my basil. I grew it from seed and it’s finally growing well after staying kind of scrawny all summer. It’s in a sunnier spot now which it seems to enjoy. With bread, fresh basil, and tomatoes, it’s hard for this recipe to go wrong!

Panzanella

Ingredients:

1 small baguette (or about 2 rolls or half a loaf) of good crusty day old bread
olive oil
salt
pepper
garlic powder
2 tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/4 red onion
handful of fresh basil
3 cloves of garlic
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Directions:

  • Cut the bread into large cubes. If the bread it still soft (mine was even after a couple days), preheat the oven to 400°. Place the bread cubes on a baking pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over top and sprinkle on salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Bake the bread cubes for 5-10 minutes until they dry out a little bit. If your bread is still soft and you skip this step, the bread will be really soggy once it soaks up juices in the salad.
  • Chop the tomatoes, peel and chop the cucumber, and thinly slice the red onion and basil. Place all the veggies in a large mixing bowl.
  • Once the bread is finished toasting, add it to the bowl and mix it up.
  • Drizzle on a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle on some salt and pepper to taste. Stir so everything gets evenly coated and serve right away. This salad is best eaten the same day it’s made because the bread will get soggy in the fridge overnight.

Lemon Orzo with Veggies

I know it’s not summer yet, but it’s okay to pretend right? This is a light and summery sort of meal that’s perfect for dinner and to pack for lunch the next day. It’s a lemony twist on pasta salad, without all the oily dressing. Boiling the orzo with the lemon juice and lemon rinds infuses the pasta with a light lemony taste. You can add in your own favorite veggies. Some cucumbers, carrots, or artichoke would be a nice addition.

Ingredients:
1 bunch of asparagus
1 small yellow onion
salt
pepper
olive oil
4 lemons
1 cup fresh peas
1 lb of orzo
10 cherry tomatoes
1 red pepper
3 or 4 sprigs of parsley

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°.
  • Snap off the ends of the asparagus and place them in a roasting pan. Thinly slice the onion and place the slices in the pan. Juice one lemon and pour the juice over the asparagus and onion so they’re evenly coated. Drizzle just a little bit of olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the asparagus and onions in the oven for about 20 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of roasting, add the fresh peas to the pan.
  • Bring a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the boiling water and add in the lemon rinds as well. Make sure you filter out any lemon seeds first. Add the orzo and cook according to the package directions.
  • Chop the cherry tomatoes, red pepper, and fresh parsley.
  • Once the orzo is done, drain it and place it in a mixing bowl or large pot.
  • Cut the roasted asparagus spears into 1 inch pieces. (You can also do this before you roast them if you prefer.)
  • Add the asparagus, onions, peas, and the lemon juice from the roasting pan to the orzo. Add the chopped cherry tomatoes, red pepper, and parsley to the orzo.
  • Juice the remaining two lemons and pour the juice over the orzo. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir the orzo well so everything is coated with the juice and seasoning.