Ina Garten’s Panzanella

My four year old daughter likes to pull a chair into the kitchen during dinner prep time and stand on it to watch me chop and cook away. This reminds me of what I used to do when my mother was cooking in her kitchen. I remember lifting up pot lids and watching a stew or soup simmer gently, giving everything a good stir and feeling like I contributed to the cooking even though my mother did all the work.

Yesterday during such time, I asked my daughter what her goals are for this Summer and this was what she listed down in one hurried sentence:

“1. learn how to play tennis; 2. learn how to use the skipping rope; 3. go to Centre Island; 4. go to the park; 5. attend arts camp.”

I miss being a little child again; goals were made much more simple and thus achievable back then. Well, keeping this in mind, I made a goal for myself that should be very achievable: my goal is to read a bedtime story to my daughter every single night this Summer. Now that Summer vacation is here and there’s no need to wake up early for school, pushing back bedtime to squeeze in a tale shouldn’t be a problem.

On the subject of Summer, this salad is the essence of Summer. Panzanella is an Italian salad whose purpose is primarily to use up stale bread. I have seen many different recipes for Panzanella and none – until I came across this by Ina Garten – appealed to me because the techniques inevitably produce a mushy bowl of soggy bread. No thank you, I’d much rather take my bread stale than soggy.

Now, have you ever had fried bread? I highly recommend it; I am completely at the mercy of fried bread. Ina Garten’s version of Panzanella calls for cubed bread to be fried in olive oil (not a lot, so don’t worry about the effects on your waistline), and allows you to set them aside, to be eventually tossed with the rest of the salad whenever you are ready to eat. Happily, this solves the problem of soggy bread for me.

The large chunks of crunchy, colourful and juicy vegetables and the golden, homemade croutons make for a pretty sight and the perfect refreshing meal on a hot Summer evening when firing up the oven just seems too crazy.

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