Bread Salad – Panzanella

I wrote about a ‘special’ panzanella on this blog four years ago – ‘special’ because it added an ingredient that is not normally associated with a panzanella, in this case squid.

https://frascaticookingthatsamore.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/antipasto-squid-panzanella-inspired-by-ristorante-pepenero-in-capodimonte/

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More recently, I read such a beautiful post about panzanella by Judy Witts Francini (of Divina Cucina fame) that I thought to myself: what IS the point of writing another one, you’d only say more or less the same things.   The one panzanella she didn’t mention is the one we make near Rome (panzanella romana), the one my grandmother would prepare for me as an afternoon snack (merenda).  Basically, it was just a lot of chopped tomatoes placed over a slice of bread, and seasoned with salt and olive oil.  Delicious.

The good thing about panzanella is that it can be prepared ahead of time and is actually great for parties.  Here is a photo of a huge panzanella I made last summer on the occasion of my sister-in-law’s birthday.

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And now, without further ado, but with imagined roll of drums and blaring of trumpets, here is the link to Judy’s post:

Panzanella – Why Tuscan bread is Saltless

Summer Chicken Salad

A chicken salad is one whose prime ingredient is the chicken – duh – but the other elements that compose it are not the same all year round.  This being a very very hot August, I decided that buying a rotisserie chicken made a lot more sense – better than poaching a chicken myself and waiting for it to cool down, etc.

The real ‘nuisance’ about this salad, and one which you are free to avoid, is making the mayonnaise.  (Personally, I can’t stand bought mayonnaise because to my mind it really isn’t mayonnaise, just some kind of industrially produced salad cream.)  There are loads of youtube tutorials on how to make mayonnaise and the easiest, I think, is the one using an immersion blender.   Real mayo makes all the difference I promise you.

INGREDIENTS

Eggs for the home-made mayo, extravirgin olive oil, lemon, patisserie chicken, bacon, various kinds of salads, rocket/arugula, celery (sliced), red pepper corns, grapes (sliced)

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I started out by cooking the bacon until very crisp and waiting for it to cool before adding it to the mayonnaise.  Don’t tell anyone but … I actually used some of the  bacon fat to MAKE the mayo, aha! On top of olive oil of course, and lemon juice.

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Chopping the chicken did take longer than I thought it would but there you are – this was a recipe made with love.  Once done, I added the chicken to the mayo and left the bowl (covered) in the fridge until it was time for dinner.  In the meantime, I also sliced the celery and washed the salad leaves and, again, left them in the fridge.  Then off we went to the beach for the day.

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Silvia, favourite son’s girfriend, went to the trouble of slicing the grapes in half.  Good girl …

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I placed the salad on the bottom of the serving plate and added the chicken in its mayonnaise coating on top.  And then added the celery and the peppercorns.  The grapes went in last.

5A close-up ….6On the table, taking pride of place amongst the other dishes.7Bit of a weird photo, but we were starving by then and there was much rejoicing and wolfing down of food to be done.

RECAP

Cook bacon, make mayo, add chicken to mayo and store in fridge.   Slice celery, wash salads and grapes and store in fridge.  Slice grapes just before eating.

Lentil and Orange Salad

I  mentioned this salad in a post I wrote a few months back about a super Sicilian-styled lunch chez Stefania Barzini.  I asked her subsequently for the recipe and tried it out.  It wasn’t quite as good as what we ate at her house but still, good enough to want to repeat, which is always comforting.   I think it was the quality of the lentils I used that was the ‘problem’.  For this recipe, the smaller and longer-to-cook lentil, the better: it will retain its shape suitable for a salad.  Silly me, I should have used the famous lentils from the area of Castelluccio in Umbria, which are nearly always what I do use.  Anway, enough with the mortification and on with the recipe.

INGREDIENTS: lentils, olive oil, a few shallots, 1 clove of garlic, 2 oranges and 2 lemons (like the Bells of Saint Clement’s) plus another half lemon for the  final touch, fresh mint leaves and, if you like, and I do indeed like, a few chilli flakes

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Stew some shallots and 1 clove of garlic with some olive oil in a deep saucepan, until softened.  Over a low heat.

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Add the lentils.IMG_3239Cut one of the oranges and the two lemons in half and place them over the lentils as shown in the photo.

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Pour enough water to cover the lentils and turn the heat on.  Sprinkle some salt too.

IMG_3241I can’t remember how long I cooked the lentils – but basically we are cooking them until they are done!

IMG_3247Once cooked, drain the lentils, remove the citrus fruits and wait for the lentils to cool.  Transfer into a salad bowl, season with plenty of olive oil and salt, and then add the juice of half a lemon (or more if you prefer).  Taste, see if more olive oil is required – cooked lentils are guzzlers for oil.

IMG_3253I did not take a final photo of this dish – the photo you see here is just before I poured more olive oil  to anoint the salad.  As you can see, I  had peeled the other orange and cut it into slices, as well as adding fresh mint leaves.  I did not add chilli flakes to the salad bowl (fresh chilli would be even better) because not everyone likes the heat – I sprinkled some over my own helping naturally!  Very simple ingredients for a very tasty salad.

Braised Lettuce as a Side Dish

About five years ago, I wrote a post about a salad soup (https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/soup-series-salad-soup/) which is just the sort of thing one craves when the temperatures are cold or gloomy.   At the time, I was very surprised to come across the inclusion of salad(s) in a soup but now of course I think it’s ‘normal’.  It’s also very easy to make which never hurts.

A few months ago, I found out that salad can also be cooked and served as a side dish.  I’ll say straight away that though this might not be something I shall be clamouring for any time in the near future (especially now that Summer is about to explode), it did taste perfectly nice.  I think it would make an excellent go-to recipe for when we are tormented by the sight of unused, somewhat sad-looking salad languoring in our fridges. Bonus: we enjoy a nice side dish AND get to feel virtuous because we ‘dispose’ of the salad in a fitting manner, avoiding food waste.

The lettuce needs to be simmered in salted water for about three to four minutes, then drained and rinsed under running cold water.  Squeeze gently so as to remove as much water as possible.  Use some olive oil, butter and anchovy fillets as a sauce with which to coat and sauté the salad for a few minutes and then season with salt and pepper.  The anchovy melts in the  butter and olive oil and so leaves no strong aftertaste.

1Arguably, mine was not at all a sad looking salad.  It was lovely and fresh.

5678Do sprinkle some salt over the salad … and white pepper might be nice too.

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Maybe add a few olives? capers even? Grated cheese? Raisins? Pine nuts?