It's been down right ugly on this side of San Francisco these last couple of weeks. Seriously, while most of you out there have been enjoying the warmth of Summer with muscle shirts and ice cream cones, we're wearing sweatpants and watching TV under a blanket. Well, some of us are, anyway. I guess it goes without saying that summertime in San Francisco is a bit, uh, out of the ordinary.
So when you're left out of all the good summertime fun, it makes a certain amount of sense to travel somewhere that isn't in the middle of a seasonal identity crisis. For us, this came in the form of my Father-in-law's birthday party up north in Sonoma County, where the sun would actually be shining and shorts could be worn by all. In honor of the day, we picked up some treats from some favorite local spots, and all of the fresh ingredients to make a bright and flavorful bread salad. This panzanella was wonderfully simple to put together, and could easily be a surprise hit at your next party.
9 cups day old country bread, torn or cut into 1 inch pieces
2 lbs. tomatoes, large dice
1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet onions (torpedo, Maui, or Vidalia)
2 medium English cucumbers, halved lengthwise and cut into large dice
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
3 - 4 medium garlic cloves, sliced thin
Whisking constantly, pour the olive oil into the lemon juice in a thin stream, mixing until well blended. Mix in zest and garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
Toss all of the bread with 1/2 of the vinaigrette, ensuring the bread is coated completely. Set aside at room temperature for about 10 minutes to allow the bread to marinate.
Here's the fun part: After the bread has marinated, add the remaining ingredients and second half of the vinaigrette to the bowl, and using your (clean, I hope) hands, mix the salad combining everything and coating evenly with the vinaigrette. Let the salad rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mix and mingle, although it gets better the longer the flavors get to do their little dance.
Serves about 8.