Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Heavenly Panzanella

Every home bread baker will always have days when they bake more than they could eat.

Well, freezing is an option.

But what if you’re not in the mood to freeze your baked goods? Surely you’d feel guilty for throwing those wonderfully made bread. You can dice them, season them, and turn them into beautiful croutons for your soups and salads. You can also grate them, dry them, season them,  and make homemade bread crumbs that you can use to coat your choice of protein, or sprinkle on top of a bed of creamy mac’n’cheese. So many options, so many delicious ideas to turn days old bread into something special. But here’s my favorite, Panzanella.

"Panzanella...Summer salad of central Italy consisting of tomatoes, cucumber, onion, basil, vinegar, and olive oil. Also pan molle (soft bread) and panbagnato (soaked bread). From the Latin panis (bread)."

---Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink, John Mariani [Broadway Books:New York] 1997 (p. 178)

The first time I tried Panzanella, I was absolutely not impressed. The vinaigrette was too much it turned the bread into a mush and the tomatoes were not ripe enough. Under ripe tomatoes are best for making sambal, methinks. So I did not care about Panzanella for a long, long time. That is, until I start baking my own bread. With the abundance of bread I have at home, I have to have perfect Panzanella. Two key ingredients in making perfect Panzanella are very ripe tomatoes and bread with open crumbs that would gladly soak the lovely vinaigrette. 

There are many ways to make Panzanella. Some of the Florentine traditionalists actually just soak the bread in water and add some very ripe tomatoes, salt, and olive oil. They disapprove additional ingredients such as olives, mozzarella, white wine, capers, celery, red wine, red onion, cucumber, bell, anchovies, peppers, lemon juice, and garlic. But hey, with all due respect to the Fiorentino, I beg to differ. So let’s jump on my not mushy, simple, vegan, unbelievably delicious Panzanella band wagon!

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 red or white  onion, thinly sliced
A handful of basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3-5 black olives, drained and thinly sliced
1 tbs capers, drained and shred to pieces
French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (4-5 cups)
a pinch of salt
2-3 tbs vegetable oil, for pan frying

For the vinaigrette:
1 finely minced garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbs red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
Important note: DO NOT put too much salt in your vinaigrette!
Once the vinaigrette is poured on the salad and mixed well with the other ingredients, you will have additional saltiness from the capers and the olives. 

For the bread, you can cut the crust if it is already too hard. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and a pinch of salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. You are doing this to prevent the bread from turning into an unappetizing mush.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, onion, basil, olives, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to marry.

Mamma Mia!
Stale bread+ripe tomatoes+vinaigrette= MANNA.

I use my sourdough bread here and if you happen to have sourdough bread at your disposal, all the better. It will take your Panzanella to the next level. If you want to add cucumber, fine. It will provide an extra crunch. Just make sure you take the seeds out first , otherwise it would make the bread too soggy and that's something you wanna avoid.

If you have never had Panzanella before, then I advise you to intentionally leave your bread to stale. Don't you dare touch it. Get some of the ripest tomatoes possible and by God! Make yourself some Panzanella and get lost in all its glory.


Stumble Upon Toolbar Pin It

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chocolate Coated Coffee Beans

When I come across good quality coffee beans, I wouldn’t think twice to buy it. Even if it’s just for 100gr, I have to bring those babies home. So there is this new coffee kiosk in the traditional market near my house. It’s probably just a 3x4m kiosk but boy, does it have plenty of coffee varieties. I usually stop by to place my order then off to buy some veggies or whatever I come to the market for and get back there to retrieve that excellently made cup of coffee. It takes quite sometimes to make because the barista brews the coffee manually.

So last week, they offered me some beans from Vietnam. One sniff of the jar full of those perfectly roasted coffee beans will make you think you’re in Shangrila. That’s the thing with coffee I think. It contains caffeine. Caffeine is a drug. Just like its illegal cousins, it makes you more alert, focused, and happy. I like that. I really, really like that. So by the time I got home, I decided to half the beans to be ground later and some to be covered in chocolate. That way, you’ll get high faster, easier, and still not breaking the law.

“Sir, I need to report my neighbor. There is this crazy cat lady who never sleeps and I think she just might consume something illegal.” Said my neighbor.

I say.. Oh, neighbor.. I pity your existence.

Anyhow, let’s appreciate good beans by eating them. That way, you shall waste nothing.

150gr good quality milk/dark chocolate
75gr freshly roasted coffee beans


-Melt the chocolate in a bain marie.
-Once the chocolate has begun to melt, take the bowl off the water.
-Start tempering the chocolate by stirring. You need to let the heat dissipate so you can use your chocolate. This will take a while. You just need to keep on stirring to get it tempered. 

~~How do I know whether it’s tempered or not? 
Dip the back of a spoon into the chocolate and place in the fridge for 2-3 minutes. If the chocolate is completely set up, smooth and slightly shiny, then the chocolate is tempered.

-Once your chocolate is tempered, dump the beans in.

-Stir until all the beans are coated. Then using a small fork, take each coated beans and place it on a baking sheet.

-Put the coated chocolate in the fridge to speed up the setting up process.
-Peel the cocoa beans off the sheet and store in a glass jar (mason or Ball jar) in the fridge.

What a sophisticated snack!

I'm glad I am patient enough to individually separate the beans. You can, of course, make it in a cluster of two or three beans. But it was such a zen moment for me. No TV, no cell phone, just me, the repetitive action, and the sound of chirping bird in a distance.

A little note:
-Know your beans and find the right chocolate that matches the beans.
-If you use milk chocolate, you don't need to add any powdered sugar to the chocolate when you temper it.
-I use dark but added about almost a table spoon of powdered sugar to give a hint of sweetness in the chocolate because I want to be able to taste the chocolate before the bitterness of the coffee beans kicks in.
-This is not popcorn. You will turn into an energizer bunny if you eat too much at the same time.

Anyhow, if you're an adult and you love coffee, do make this. I promise it is worthy of your precious time. 


Stumble Upon Toolbar Pin It