July 18, 2008

Panzanella

Posted in appetizers, recipe, salad at 8:20 am by veganalects

Have you ever had panzanella? I hadn’t until a month ago. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it, though I guess it’s standard fare for Italian restaurants. What can I say? My restaurant attendance skews heavily toward Asian.

But there I was, at Bar Toto in Brooklyn, desiring lighter fare than a generously oiled panino with a huge plate of fries. And panzanella—bread salad, so said the menu—caught my eye. It was delicious. It didn’t seem complicated. I had to make it.

This dish centers around stale bread, dressing, and tomatoes, and I gather that beyond that anything (or at least a great deal) goes. I made this for the Fourth of July (which, I feel compelled to state, I celebrate purely for celebration’s sake) and it was a hit. It beat the green tea cupcakes! And they’re cupcakes! Perhaps, however, the market for vegan green tea cupcakes is limited. But I digress. My panzanella is inspired by Bar Toto’s, hence the olives. Plus I really like olives. But consider this recipe a guide; feel free to add whatever you have on hand that seems appealing—or subtract whatever you don’t, that doesn’t. Although it looks complicated, it’s really quite simple and could be made even simpler by not roasting the tomatoes.

A note on the bread: ideally it should be stale, but in a tropical D.C. summer leaving it out overnight barely toughens the crust. If it’s still soft, toasting works fine (toast the slices, then break them into strips).

Panzanella
Makes a Big Old Salad Bowlful (Serves Eight?)

1 small-medium loaf stale/toasted Italian or other crusty bread, sliced and torn into strips
1 box cherry tomatoes, roasted (see below)
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved (measure after pitting)
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup basil, chopped
½-¾ cup vinaigrette (see below)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

For the tomatoes
To roast tomatoes, preheat oven to 400˚F. Toss washed and dried tomatoes with olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Place on a baking sheet and cook 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are wrinkled and slightly collapsed.

For the vinaigrette
½ cup olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
a few dashes salt

Place all ingredients in a jar. Shake vigorously.

And now, the panzanella
In a large salad bowl, combine bread strips, roasted tomatoes, olives, capers, and basil. Toss. Add vinaigrette to taste, a little at a time and tossing in between since the bread will absorb it quickly; you have ¾ cup and may use up to all of it (I recommend ½ cup as a minimum). Add salt and pepper to taste. Dress (the salad, that is) a half hour before you plan to eat it.

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January 25, 2008

This is Dinner?

Posted in dinner, salad, the Challenge, Veganomicon at 12:33 am by veganalects

Well, yes. This is part of dinner. This is also the bottom of a celeriac, or celery root.

Lolo’s post about celeriac and Celery Rémoulade on VeganYumYum intrigued me, but I had forgotten about making it until I stumbled upon this beauty sitting next to the broccoli. Lolo tells you everything you might want to know about celeriac and I don’t have much to add. I’ll just tell you how my attempt to make this French side dish went.

pic.jpgIt tasted good, but it didn’t come out quite right. We lost the shredding attachment for our blender, so the texture was a bit off, for one thing. But the main problem was the dressing-to-celeriac ratio. I don’t know if it was that the celery was diced too small or that I had a particularly small celeriac, but my rémoulade resembled rice pudding (as you can see). It was fine over baby greens—and even better on Swedish crisp bread—but it would have been too saucy on its own.

Part 2 of dinner was similarly tasty-but-imperfect. I tried to make the Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes from Veganomicon; in my rush to get dinner on the table, however (I had two hungry parents sniffing around the kitchen), I broke the potato skins. So they became inelegant (but certainly not inedible) Samosa Mashed Potatoes. Kind of an odd combination, my slightly mangled French and Indian dishes, but I enjoyed them both anyway.

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January 17, 2008

Kale Soup with Corn and Edamame Salad

Posted in dinner, salad, soup, the Challenge, Veganomicon at 5:56 am by veganalects

Since having the Tofu, Noodles, and Kale from VeganYumYum—possibly our favorite dish so far—I’ve been wanting to make more stuff with kale (that’s kale looking pretty in the background). You can never have too many leafy greens, right? So for my next kale recipe, I went back to VeganYumYum and made Lolo’s version of Creamy Kale Soup. Not only is it full of leafy greens, it also has quinoa. Isn’t quinoa supposed to be the best grain ever or something?

In any case, this soup was just what we needed on a cold January night. The quinoa and lentils give it body and the tahini (that’s what you see drizzled over the soup) makes it creamy. Plus it’s another easy recipe. (Do I ever make hard recipes?)

I could eat bread and soup every day, but my dad wanted something to supplement our liquid meal. I flipped through Veganomicon and arbitrarily chose the Corn and Edamame-Sesame Salad from all the mouthwatering salads in there. While it’s really more of a summer salad, being chilled and corn-y, it was another simple and scrumptious dish.

You might think I’m uncritical—not a dud yet—but my previously-skeptical parents assure me they’ll let me know if I make a misstep. The food is all so good because I know where to find my recipes!