Food is Love, Love is Food.

A blog devoted to the connection between meals, memories and the special moments in our lives.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Making Summer Last: Panzanella

Today is officially my last day of summer vacation.  School starts for most kids next week, so for us teachers, the mad rush to the first day of school begins this week.  While I love teaching, the transition each year is a tough one.  To go from the long, relaxing summer days where the biggest decision is what to have for dinner, to getting up at 5:15 AM and hitting the ground running is a tough one.  Teachers look forward to summer each year, not necessarily for the reasons you would think.  While we love the free time, what we really need is the long strand days where we do not have to plan what we are doing the next day or the next class. For ten months each year, the first thought I have when I wake up is "what am I doing in the classroom today?"  The summer provides the break from that.

Don't get me wrong.  By the end of the summer, I am ready to go back.  It is time to use my brain again, and of course, time to earn a paycheck again!  But I still feel that sadness at the end of each summer.  Time is passing too quickly, the kids are growing up much too rapidly.  As the saying goes, 'the days are long, but the years are short.'  So I do what I can to extend that summer feeling.  In addition to making a point of getting outside to enjoy the beautiful weather that September brings to Connecticut, I also continue to cook like it is summer. 

The vegetables in the garden and at the farmer's markets are hitting their peak right now, and nothing is more delicious than late summer tomatoes. We have been working toward real panzanella all summer, and waiting for the garden to yeild those sweet, juicy, red tomatoes.  They are here in spades, almost too many to eat.  Almost.

Summer Panzanella:
4-5 excellent summer tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced
1/2 medium red onion
2 tbsp. capers (optional
big bunch basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 small loaf Italian bread (I used a small ciabatta loaf), cubed
Extra Virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Toast the bread cubes by drizzling with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt, and placing in a 300 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until crunchy.  Cut up the tomatoes into bite sized chunks, and place in a large bowl.  Add cucumbers, onions, capers, if using, and basil.  Once the bread is toasted and cooled, add to the tomato mixture.

Mix 4 tablespoons of olive oil with 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and whisk together.  Drizzle over the bread and tomato mixture, tossing to coat.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix again.  Add more dressing if necessary.  Serve immediately, and savor the taste of summer.

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