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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuscan Bread Salad (Panzanella)

I first tried making this traditional Italian bread salad a few years ago just because I was intrigued by what I'd read about it. The dressing is tossed with the bread cubes and soaks in, so you'll want to get a bit of one in every bite.

This is my take on a recipe from 365 Great 20-Minute Recipes by Beverly Cox. I've varied the lettuce and cheeses with good results.


12 ounces or so day-old Italian, French or other good, rustic bread*
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper
3 large, ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 lb. to 1 lb. diced mozzarella (or use white cheddar or Asiago or a mix) at room temperature
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup slivered basil leaves**
Salad greens such as torn romaine leaves

Cut bread into rough 3/4-inch cubes and place in large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk balsamic, salt, pepper and sugar. Slowly pour in olive oil, whisking to emulsify. Pour dressing over bread and toss to mix well.

Add tomatoes, bell pepper, cheese, garlic and basil. Mix gently but thoroughly. Spoon salad over lettuce leaves on platter or large, shallow bowl.

Serves 4 to 6.

Makes a great, light summer supper. Try it with a glass of white wine.

* I've also used leftover rosemary focaccia and cornbread and been very happy with the flavor
** I have successfully subbed a little pesto mixed in with the chopped tomatoes when I had too little basil (or when my plant has basil blight as it does this year, ugh).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Asparagus Artichoke Salad with Rosemary Ham

I came up with this in an attempt to copy a wonderful salad I had at the Lost Shepherd in Powell, Ohio. The restaurant uses prosciutto, but I love the rosmarino ham found at Giant Eagle and The Andersons. It has a delightful rosemary flavor and isn't as salty or chewy as the thicker prosciutto the restaurant uses. While it makes great sandwiches, I especially like it with this combination. It can be a side salad, but my husband and I eat it as a light entree. It goes together quickly.

The restaurant dresses the salad with a red wine vinaigrette. I do like homemade dressings, but so far I've used commercial garlic ranch or vidalia vinaigrette (Sam's Club sells a good one). A Parmesan dressing would be nice, too.

Frozen artichokes, thawed
Rosemary ham (or prosciutto)
Asiago  (or fresh Parmesan, which is what the restaurant uses), grated or shaved
Dressing of choice (garlic ranch, parmesan, vidalia, red wine vinaigrette etc.)

Cook asparagus by steaming, simmering or roasting till just tender but still a bit crisp.
Meanwhile, cut artichokes into small pieces if desired. Julienne ham. Dice tomato.

Place cooked asparagus on serving plates and sprinkle toppings over. Drizzle on dressing. 

Note: If serving a large number or heading for a potluck, you can cut the asparagus and artichoke hearts into bite-size pieces and toss everything together.