This week, butternut squash arrived at the farmer’s market, co-existing with the last of the bell peppers, tomatoes, and basil. The end of summer produce season is upon us.
Consider sending off the season with this recipe, which embodies everything that is good about summer cooking. High-quality fresh produce? Check. No oven and only one pan required? Got it. Acidic tomatoes that burst in your mouth? In abundance. (Insert heart-eye emoji here.) Best served with chilled rosé? Oh yes.
So, one last time before next summer: chop up some fresh vegetables, toss with some crusty bread, mix everything with an easy vinaigrette, and call it dinner. When you dig in tonight (and for lunches this week), you’ll be giving the best food season the farewell it deserves.
End-of-summer panzanella (serves 6 main courses)
From Smitten Kitchen (who in turn took it from Ina Garten)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 loaf of decent, crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups). A day stale is okay.
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large ripe, farmer’s market tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (Not to be preachy, but: a recipe this simple relies on amazing tomatoes.)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick. (If you’re using a cuke with thicker skin, peel it.)
2 bell peppers (any color but green), seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced (see notes, below)
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (see notes, below)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar (don’t have it? No worries. White wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar would also be fine here)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss with the salad. (Nb: I both mix and store my dressings in mason jars, which cuts down on dishes.)
Serve immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend. (see notes, below)
On the red onions: Like the bite of red onions, but wish they were just slightly more mild? Try this: chuck the sliced onions in a bowl of cold water for 5 or so minutes. Drain. Toss with salad. It removes some of their bite (and their ability to make my mouth taste funny for the rest of the day).
On leftovers: Don’t toss the whole salad with the dressing. Store the dressing separately, then just dress each portion a few minutes before eating, or before you head into work in the morning.
On the garlic: Looking for an easier way to peel garlic cloves, so you’re not peeling little sticky, fiddly bits of garlic paper off of each clove? I feel that. Try this: lay your knife flat above the clove. Use your hand to smash down the side of the knife on the clove. (See photos below.) Now try peeling the garlic–it should be easy.