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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Ajo Blanco

Is autumn already lapping at summer’s heels where you live? Where I live, crisp fall days can’t be counted on until Halloween, and September can hold some intensely warm days. That means chilled soups still have a place on the menu, and this one is not only refreshing and simple to make; it also gets bonus points for making delicious use of the leftover bread I always seem to have hanging around.

Ajo Blanco is a garlicky Spanish soup that gets its non-dairy creaminess from blanched almonds, and additional body from the bread. The traditional garnish is green grapes but Penelop Casas, in La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain, suggests green melon balls, which I found to be a lovely alternative.

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Watermelon Gazpacho

Combine two-day-old bread with a craving for a cold, light summer soup, and what do you get? Gazpacho, of course! (Did you know that stale bread is a defining ingredient of original Andalucian gazpacho? I didn’t, until a year or two ago, although I’ve been making “gazpacho” for years.)

I have no tomatoes, but I do still have half of the best watermelon ever. Watermelon gazpacho it is, then. We ate this light, bright, refreshing soup with grilled flank steak for the perfect summer supper.

The bread I used was a fairly sour sourdough. If your bread is less sour, you may want to increase the amount of vinegar. Of course, all of the ingredients are to taste anyway.

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Potato Salad Non-Recipe

potato salad

My son B and his girlfriend J called from school the other day, wanting to know the ingredients in the potato salad I made when they were here a couple of weekends ago. They were planning to cook a steak also. They are cooking, hallelujah! I don’t know, and can’t honestly say I want to know, everything B is up to when he’s out of my reach, but it’s a little comforting to know it’s not all fast food all the time.

This is the potato salad I have made ever since I can remember, and it’s notable if for no other reason than that both my kids like it. Now I normally am not the person you want to go to for any recipes that don’t include yeast, or at least flour. But what the heck, it’s really good potato salad, and the Fourth is coming, and it’s not really a recipe anyway, more like a collection of ingredients.

Of course having this online could mean B calls just that much less often (because does he call when he doesn’t want or need something? not so much), but he doesn’t read here that I know of. So if you see him, please keep your mouth shut about it, OK?

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Edamame “Hummus” and Soy-Whole Wheat Pitas

Remember when you were twelve and you broke your arm skateboarding? You had a cool cast that everyone signed, and you got to have your mom write out your homework, and within a month you were back out there on the skateboard, good as new. No big deal.

Osteoporosis isn’t like that. It’s a huge deal. It doesn’t take a major trauma to break osteoporotic bones, and fractures related to this devastating disease are a leading cause of hospitalization, disability, and even death. Did you know that an adult over age 50 who fractures a hip has a one in four chance of dying within one year?

While those most likely to suffer the effects of osteoporosis are women over age 50, the time to think about preventing it is now, no matter what your age and gender. Bone mass is largely acquired before the age of 20, but good health habits at any age will help. Don’t smoke. Do regular weight-bearing exercise. Get enough Vitamin D. And three words at the top of the list: Calcium, Calcium, Calcium! Many people just don’t get enough of this critical bone-forming mineral.

In recognition of National Osteoporosis Prevention Month and to promote awareness of the disease, Susan of Food Blogga is hosting Beautiful Bones. The task is to make a dish with one or more calcium-rich ingredients. I chose to give hummus and pita bread, a favorite around here, a calcium boost by making a few adaptations to my everyday recipes.

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