Panzanella

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Hello tomatoes! Wow it’s been such a cool summer that it has taken a bit longer for them to ripen in the garden, but last week all four plants decided it was time. The yellow Taxi tomatoes along with the Sungold cherry tomatoes were the first on the scene, followed by Black Krim, and lastly the Brandywine. I’ve been wanting to make this Panzanella for a while, and since I had made a loaf of No-Knead bread a couple days prior it worked out great. Most recipes say to put the bread cubes in the oven, but I opted for the skillet which went pretty quick and ya know, fried bread? So good. You could serve this as a side dish or appetizer, or it makes a great vegetarian meal when you want something light. 

And speaking of serving, I received sample dishes from Carthage.co Stoneware which you see here and they are just beautiful! The large white plate is the Dadasi Dinner plate in chalk and the dark bowl is the Zaghwan Soup Bowl in Old Silver. I think they both look great but especially love the Zaghwan bowl with these bright colored tomatoes. And the prices are quite reasonable for high-end ceramic dishes. You can read more about these hand-crafted ceramics here. They have a nice weight to them and they’re a pleasure to photograph. I’ll be back with more tomato and/or zucchini dishes this month. Until then I recommend this Panzanella, enjoy!

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Panzanella

  • 3 cups baguette or rustic bread, preferably stale, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt, more to taste

  • 2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, preferably a mix of varieties and colors

  • 6 ounces small fresh mozzarella balls (or shredded chunks of fresh mozzarella)

  • 1/2 cup torn basil leaves

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)

  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil

  • Salt and Pepper

In a large bowl mix together the bread cubes with olive oil and salt. Add a bit of olive oil to a  large cast iron skillet and heat on medium, when warm place the cubes in a single layer, tossing as needed until crisp on all sides. When done place the bread cubes on a plate and allow to cool a bit. 

To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the Dijon and vinegar, then whisk in the olive oil.

Cut the tomatoes into chunks and then add them to a large bowl, add the mozzarella, bread cubes and the basil leaves (but leave a few to top the dish), add some salt and pepper and stir gently. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Top with remaining basil leaves. Serve at room temp.

Zucchini + Herb Ricotta Tarts

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Zucchini and Herb Ricotta Tarts. I’m looking for all ways to eat zucchini lately. This is the first time we’ve grown zucchini and wow! it grows quickly, seems every 3 days or so there are a couple more to pick. It’s easy enough just to grill but I want to try some new ways to prepare it. I pickled some last week and they came out great. I’d like to get that recipe in a post soon, but you might start calling me The Zucchini Lady, ha ha. This tart dough is different than other doughs I’ve made, you make it with melted butter which is the opposite of 99% pie doughs out there as they use cold butter, but I thought I’d give it a try because with this dough you don’t have to roll it out, you simply press it in the pan. It was much easier and faster to make. You just mix it in a bowl by hand in one minute. Done. I was surprised by how much I liked it! Really nice texture, almost like a cookie type texture. I would make this again no doubt, but for savory tarts I would cut back on the sugar and add more salt, other than that it’s a winner. This Zucchini + Herb Ricotta Tart is super delicious, we had it with a side of Radicchio salad, it’s good for a lunch or light dinner. Oh and pan size, you can make one 9” tart or make a few smaller ones, I used a 6” tart pan and two 4” tart pans, the math doesn’t quite work out on that but it worked for me! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Enjoy :)

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Zucchini + Herb Ricotta Tarts

  • 1/2-1 whole zucchini sliced 1/8” thick

  • 1 cup ricotta

  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano 

  • Olive oil

  • Salt & Pepper

  • Tart dough (recipe below)

In a bowl combine the cheeses and fresh herbs with some salt and pepper. Spread a layer of the cheese mixture into the prepared tart pans, then arrange the zucchini slices on top. Drizzle with some olive oil to cover all the vegetable. Lightly salt. Bake at 400°F for 25-35 minutes until just browned.

Tart Dough

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter

  • 3 tablespoons sugar (or 1 1/2 tablespoons for less sweet)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl combine butter, sugar and salt, then add flour and mix with wood spoon until just combined. 

Distribute the dough on the bottom of your tart pan(s) and press the dough evenly over bottom and sides. You can use a floured cup to press it if necessary (i just used my fingers). Cover the tart shell with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Once chilled, with a fork prick the shell all over and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool. Then add filling and bake as directed.

Tart dough adapted from Chowhound

Ratatouille with Polenta

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Ratatouille with Polenta. This is the first time I’ve made Ratatouille. I received a complimentary cookbook Famous Dishes from Around the World that has 30 traditional dishes from various places around the globe, countries in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East. I picked French Ratatouille since there is such an abundance of vegetables this time of year, it makes a great summer dish. I changed a few things from the original recipe, for example the recipe had 10 cloves of garlic and I used 3, because I can’t handle too much garlic, as much as I like the flavor. I also used 2 cans of diced tomatoes rather than using marinara sauce and tomato paste. In any case it came out really good! I’ve had good and bad Ratatouille and this was definitely good. It tastes very fresh. 

I like the cookbook, it’s fun and all the recipes are fairly easy, and it has some cooking tips as well. I love all kinds of food so I think I would be happy to make any of these recipes. I want to try the Moroccan Tagine with Chicken next! Oh and It’s bilingual, each recipe is in English and Spanish, so if you’re learning either language you might enjoy this. The Ratatouille recipe here is vegetarian, but you could easily add some meat if you like. If you do add something like sausage, simply cook the meat first in the pot, then remove and add it in later with all the vegetables. Enjoy!

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Ratatouille

  • 1 large eggplant, 1” slices

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 1 red onion, chopped

  • 10 cloves garlic, minced (I used 3 cloves of garlic)

  • 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1” cubes

  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced

  • 2 medium yellow squash, sliced

  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced

  • 3 bell peppers (red, green and yellow), cut 1” pieces

  • 2 14oz cans of diced tomatoes

  • 5 bay leaves

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil

  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried oregano (or rosemary if you prefer)

  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried thyme

  • Salt & pepper to taste

(Note: the original recipe cooks each vegetable separately in another pan, then added to the larger pot, I cooked everything in one pot and it worked out fine)

Place eggplant slices on paper towels and sprinkle slices with salt for one hour to make them sweat. Blot them dry with a paper towel. Cut into quarters.

In a large dutch oven cook the eggplant in some olive oil until about half way cooked. Add the onions, garlic and tomato to the pot, sauté a few minutes until soft. Add the zucchini, squash, mushrooms, peppers, adding more olive oil as needed. Cook for 5 more minutes or so. Stir in the cans of tomatoes and the herbs (save some basil for garnish). Cover the pot and cook for about 30 minutes on a very low heat, stirring every so often. 

While the Ratatouille is simmering prepare the Polenta.

Serves 6-8 (This completely filled my dutch oven and I could not add one more thing, so it makes quite a bit!)

Recipe adapted from Famous Dishes from Around the World: Healthy, Tasty, and Affordable

Polenta

  • 1 cup Polenta (I use Bob’s Redmill Polenta Corn Grits)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 cup chicken stock

Bring water, milk and chicken stock to a boil, stir in the polenta, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes, then let it sit for a few more minutes until ready to serve.