Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The sun has gone AWOL - this calls for an emergency panzanella salad

This summer has been a little too Irish for my liking. I know it's supposed to rain in this country but does it have to rain so much that we've only been able to have dinner outside three times in the past three months?
I know we're not supposed to swelter under the sun either but did July really have to be one of the coldest on record? Or did it have to be the case that I never once took a walk on the beach without bringing along a fleece-lined jacket for fear of encountering biting Arctic winds?

This is what my walks have looked like this summer. Nice, I know, but where's the sunshine?

This weather has had consequences. Not only is everyone in Ireland at risk of vitamin D deficiency, we've all started to feel grouchy too. We need some sunshine!

I'm not a miracle worker. I can't compel the sun to shine on Ireland. Nor can this recipe promise to make up for our lack of sunshine. All I can do is assure you that its ripe tomatoes, charred red peppers, wrinkled black olives, salty anchovies and heady fragrance of basil will look, smell and taste just like summer on a plate.

Sharon's thrown-together take on a panzanella salad
The following quantities serve two adults. 
Feel free to adjust according to your own taste. If, for example, you don't like anchovies, just leave them out. The salad will still be full of flavour. It may however need a pinch of salt. 

200g of stale sourdough bread (or any other stale bread you've got lying around)
2 medium-sized red peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
14 plum tomatoes

6 large sun-dried tomatoes
12 or so wrinkled black olives
6 anchovies 
6 large basil leaves
Salt and freshly-ground pepper 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200C/400F.
  • Wash the peppers, place them on a baking tray and put them in the oven for 25 minutes. Set a timer for 15 minutes so you can use the oven to toast your croutons for the last ten minutes of cooking time.
  • Remove the crust from the bread and chop what remains into chunks measuring approximately 1.5cm squared. (Don't worry too much about accuracy. This is a rough and ready salad.)
  • Pour a tablespoon of olive oil onto a baking tray, tilting the tray so that the oil covers the entire base. Bung in the croutons. Toss them in the oil and give them a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  • Your timer should have gone off by now. Place the croutons in the oven and bake for ten minutes. By then, you should have crunchy croutons that still retain a satisfyingly chewy texture in the middle. Your peppers should be ready too - charred on the outside with yielding flesh underneath. Set both the croutons and peppers aside to cool and turn off your oven.
  • All that remains to do is chop up your remaining ingredients and add them to your salad bowl. Chop the tomatoes into quarters. 
  • Roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Remove the pits from the olives and cut them in half.
  • Roughly chop the anchovies.
  • Tear up the basil.
  • Peel the charred skin off the peppers and roughly chop the flesh.
  • Add all of these ingredients to a salad bowl, along with the croutons.
  • Add at least half a teaspoon of pepper (about six twists of a pepper grinder) to the salad. 
  • Use your hands or some salad servers to make sure that all of the ingredients are well combined.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Depending on the quality of your ingredients, you may need more pepper, a touch of salt or a few more basil leaves. (If you like olive oil, you can drizzle some over the salad. Personally, I don't think it needs it.)

{I know that, like the sunshine, I too have been absent from this blog. My apologies. I hope to check in here on a much more regular basis from now on. In the meantime, I wish you sunshine!}

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