Thursday, August 26, 2010
With Labor Day just around the corner and my first classes in 3 years (!!!) starting in a week, I could no longer keep the wool over my eyes. Summer was slipping away, and fall would come a knockin' at any moment. Ever the foodie, my first thought was to gorge on as much abundant summer produce as I could get my hands on before it's all swept off with the fallen leaves.
Not that I don't love pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Citrus fruit and apple pies. Hearty soups and creamy casseroles. And believe it or not, I even enjoy the taste of the stalwart cabbage once in a while. But none of that compares to biting into a ripe and flavorful summer tomato. So I made it a point to enjoy a lot of tomato salads. Simply sliced, sometimes with a sprinkling of fresh mint and salty feta. Other times with only a spoonful of sugar the way my mom used to serve it. Delicious either way.
Then for the times I craved something with more substance, I found this delightful panzanella salad. Toasted chunks of bread absorb every bit of delicious juice released by the tomatoes. A dollop of creamy ricotta adds just the right amount of richness. Fast, fresh, and flavorful -- this is precisely the type of summer meal I'll miss when the weather turns. But I won't get too down. After all, there'll be plenty of fall bounty to keep me occupied for months yet!
Tomato Panzanella with Ricotta [Printable Recipe]
Slightly adapted from Everyday Food Volume 74
1/2 pound day-old crusty bread, cut or torn into 1 inch pieces
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Course salt and ground pepper
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn if large
15 ounces ricotta cheese (or fresh mozzarella if preferred)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, spread bread in a single layer and bake until dry and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, vinegar, and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add toasted bread and basil, toss to combine. Let sit 20 - 30 minutes to allow bread to soak up liquid. Top with dollops of ricotta and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.