Friday, August 20, 2010
SUMMER PANZANELLA WITH OKRA - AND YEAR-ROUND PANZANELLA RECIPE ROUND-UP
Panzanella is just such a dish. Dating back to 14th century Italy, it originated as a peasant dish to breathe life back into stale bread. More recently it has spawned year-round adaptations - even a dessert or brunch twist or two. I love it when my creative juices are sparked by chefs, bloggers, and quirky home cooks like myself sharing their own innovations. You'll find a round-up of wide-ranging panzanella recipes later in this post. But let's start with the fresh summer version I made this week.
First you start with some bread. I had more than enough on hand in anticipation of upcoming Battle Sandwich.
Jean-Paul's Paradiso, which started to do its authentic baguette thing and dry on me before I could make my way through my bonanza o' bread.
First, I added sliced raw okra. If you'll indulge me in a quick okra detour, I must confess that I've never purchased or attempted to cook with fresh okra before. But after eating fried okra from Andouille Restaurant's back-yard garden recently, I couldn't resist the chance to do something with okra myself when I found mounds of it at a farmers market. When you can find okra this fresh, there's no slime factor whatsoever (a perceived deterrent some of you commented on). I tasted a few slices to see how okra tastes raw, and sold myself on the idea of leaving it that way, without sidetracking myself with further research about how to prepare this lovely veg.
To finish my salad, I topped it with some roasted red pepper, parmesan, and kalamata olives.
Ina Garten takes summer panzanella in a Greek direction with this recipe featuring feta, lemon, and olives. She also offers a grilled panzanella and goes with capers, bell peppers, and cucumbers here.
Alton Brown adds bacon for a BLT twist in this recipe.
For autumn, you could use butternut squash, cauliflower, and Asian pear as in this recipe. Or sweet potatoes and pumpkin seeds as in this one.
For a panzanella version of Thanksgiving dressing, you could try mushrooms, celery root, lentils, and turkey stock, as in this Bill Telepan recipe (on page 13, from Martha Stewart).
Smitten Kitchen makes a winter panzanella with butternut squash, sage, and brussels sprouts here. Or you could use beets, pancetta, and goat cheese as this blogger did, based on a Tyler Florence recipe. Blogger Sippity Sup takes things in a Nicoise direction with this winter panzanella of cranberry beans, white beans, green beans, and tuna.
For spring, try this winter panzanella from 101 Cookbooks featuring asparagus, peas, and spinach. Or this "late spring" version with patty pan squash, sugar snap peas, leeks, and pea shoots.
Taking panzanella in a sweeter direction, this Guy Fieri recipe includes strawberries, onions, tomatoes, and blue cheese. At first I thought that sounded like an odd mash-up of flavors, but then I remembered the classic Italian salad of berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries - take your pick), balsamic, basil, and blue cheese. If you've never tried it before, you should. You won't believe how well balsamic complements the berries.
And for a brunch version of panzanella, Michael Chiarello uses almonds, brown sugar, fresh lemon and orange juice, strawberries, blueberries, golden raisins, balsamic, and mint, with a vanilla yogurt topping.
So what panzanella adaptations do all these variations bring to mind for you? What about using panzanella to stuff tomatoes or portabello mushrooms? It occurs to me I could do a sausage panzanella based on that Alsatian salad of marinated sausage and gruyere I made for the Picnic Culinary Smackdown and added rye croutons to.