Tuscan Bread and Tomato Salad (Panzanella)

The dark saltless Tuscan bread wasn’t my favorite, but as a simple salad with sweet cherry and grape tomatoes, onions, and basil leaves in a garlic vinaigrette dressing, there’s just nothing to complain about at all.

If you require a recipe, here’s one. Otherwise, just toss whatever ingredients are the object of your summertime desire (in addition to tomatoes and basil, think olives, cucumbers, peppers, eggs, bacon…) together with one-inch cubes of rather dry bread, and dress for dinner. Done. Delicious.

In Defense of Crumbs

Packrat (n): a collector of miscellaneous useless objects.

Now I’m not saying I fit this definition. Decide for yourself. Let’s say you came to my house and poked around in my cupboards and drawers. Let’s say you found, among many other things, four empty shoeboxes, a deck of 49 cards, the cannon from a Monopoly game that was shot to hell long ago, and seven returnable ceramic yogurt jars. Let’s say you made a judgment. I’m not saying you’d be wrong. There is evidence.

However, if you looked on my counter, and thought to include, in your body of evidence, the end or two of stale bread that is likely to be hanging about… well, I’d have to object. Stale bread ends are not miscellaneous useless objects — they are bread crumbs waiting to happen. And bread crumbs are plenty of deliciousness waiting to happen; as evidence, I offer fig upside-down bread pudding, ajo blanco, steamed ginger-persimmon pudding.

And, of course, gazpacho. You read that right, chilled soup fans, gazpacho has bread crumbs in it. At least it does when it’s prepared the traditional Andalucian way. True, this gazpacho based on cantaloupe and honeydew — and no tomatoes — can’t exactly claim to be traditionally Andalucian, but it can claim to be a savory, refreshing summer soup that gets loads of body, not to mention flavor, from a hefty dose of dried out sourdough bread reduced to kibble in your trusty food processor.

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Chocolate Salami (Grandchildren Not Included)

Have I mentioned that some of my favorite blogs are in French? Le PétrinBombance…au levain! and Makanai are some fantastic francophones that you must check out if you don’t know them.

You don’t speak French? No problem, neither do I, really. Oh, my high-school French serves in a pinch and yours probably does too, but why knock ourselves out when Google Translate is such an able servant? Thanks to this tireless polyglot-bot, a mouse click gets you the translation of any text or web page in any of 45 languages.

This came in very handy the other week when I spotted Sandra’s dazzling and decadent chocolate salami and had to have it. Feeling lazy, I called upon our trusty GT to produce the English translation of the recipe, and commenced reading through the ingredient list:

  • 200g dark chocolate 70%. Check. I actually had exactly this amount left over from my Christmas baking. Sitting untouched for over a week in my cupboard. I amaze myself sometimes.
  • 100g butter. Check.
  • 2 egg yolks, extra costs. I checked the fridge. Yes, my eggs were from Whole Foods, and those are more expensive than Safeway eggs. So I was good on the pricey egg yolks.
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto. Check. (In the end I only used one tbsp.)
  • 2 pinches of dried chili flakes. Check.
  • 8 grandchildren butter (80g)What?

What is a grandchild of butter? Read on…

Rye Crostini

rye toasts

SFBI Update: It’s the end of week four, and we’ve been off baguettes for a week, but that doesn’t mean we have any less bread at the end of the day. Plain sourdough four ways, sour rye, multigrain sour, buckwheat levain, ciabatta, overnight baguettes (did I say we were off baguettes? liar!), egg bread, Portuguese sweet bread, more baguettes (I kid you not!), pan sandwich bread.

I give away as much of the stuff as I can. My freezer is now almost completely ruled by bread. Torta di Pane was good but didn’t make an appreciable dent in the supply. Only one thing to do: make toasts. Or if you’re Italian, call them crostini.

What’s not to love about thin crisps that can be made from even stale bread, keep for days-to-weeks, and serve as a platform for just about anything else you might feel like putting in your mouth?

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Torta di Pane

torta di pane

Am I a food blogger? If I am, I am a very bad one. What self-respecting food blogger would fail to document one of the most interesting restaurants she has ever visited?

About a year ago, we visited Lugano, Switzerland, and a college there that my daughter M was interested in. One evening, as the sun was setting, we boarded a boat that ferried us across Lake Lugano to a grotto, a traditional tavern typical of Ticino (try saying that five times fast), Lugano’s Italian-speaking canton. This grotto was accessible only by boat, and appeared to be built right into the lakeside mountain. The night was warm, and we were seated on the side of the dining room that opened out onto the water.

It was too dark, even inside, for photos, but if I had been taking better notes (or any notes at all, actually) I would have been able to tell you the grotto’s name (which, thanks to Google omniscient, I believe was Grotto dei Pescatori).

I would have been able to remember the names of some of the dozens of antipasti — fish, meats, vegetables, cheeses — laid out on the colossal wooden table from which we served ourselves in a cool room adjoining the dining room.

I would have been able to describe in detail the delicious fish our host brought after I responded “pesce” to the question “carne o pesce,” which was as close as things ever got to ordering from a menu. (Actually, I would have been able to remember the Italian for “meat or fish?” without having to use an online translator just now. And I do hope I got it right; I’m sure I’ll hear about it if I didn’t.)

And I would have been able to say with certainty that dessert was torta di pane. It’s a good bet that it was, though, because according to Nick Malgieri, in whose lovely book A Baker’s Tour I found this recipe (as I was browsing my cookbooks looking for something to do with all the baguettes I have lying around lately):

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The Good News

How I came to make this pudding is one of those bad news-good news kinds of deals:

  • Bad news: Nasty run-in with bread knife.
  • Good news: No stitches.
  • Bad news: Several days confinement in metal splint extending across palm of hand.
  • More bad news: Can’t examine patients with this thing, so no work for me.
  • Good news: More time to bake.
  • Bad news: Can’t shape bread either.
  • Good news: Dessert.

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