Sometimes it's just too damned hot out to think about turning on the stove or the oven.
Hot weather, coupled with the first harvest of sun-ripened, don't-taste-like-cardboard tomatoes, means one dish to me: panzanella, which is an Italian bread salad.
Now, to be honest, there are as many recipes out there for panzanella as there are for my-Italian-grandmother's-world's-greatest tomato sauce. But I am hooked on this one, which I have adapted a bit over the years from one that I received via the Splendid Table newsletter.
Can a person truly be in love with a salad? I say yes, because I am.
I could eat panzanella every day for a month and never get sick of it. I generally make the full recipe just for myself, even though it allegedly feeds four (ha -- four sickly birds, maybe, or people who hate salad). In fact, I love it so much I'm almost afraid to share the recipe with you -- because if you don't love it, too, it will break my heart.
So please, be kind to the Ninj: make this panzanella this weekend and love it.
Panzanella (adapted from a recipe by Hallie Harron and Shelley Sikora in Tomatoes and Mozzarella: 100 Ways to Enjoy This Tantalizing Twosome All Year Long)
Feel free to modify the amounts of each of the vegetables listed below, based on how much you love them. Also, this salad is just as good the next day, but best if brought back to room temperature first.
1 - 1 1/4 cups thinly sliced green onion (green and white parts)
1 medium-sized cucumber (or about half of an English cucumber), diced
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. day-old or slightly stale Italian bread
1/3 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
For the olivada dressing:
2 tablespoons jarred olive tapenade (I use black)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Slightly less than 1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Dash of cayenne pepper or Tabasco
Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dressing, tossing gently to coat.