When Kris announced that “Roots and Sky“, written by Christie Purifoy, would be this year’s book for our Summer Reading Book Club, I was thrilled. Having read the book, I can speak to the way Christie opens her heart and home to the reader, how you can picture Maplehurst, and see the rooms and the grounds. It is a beautiful book, one that deserves to be savored. I asked Christie if she had any preferences or ideas for my recipe this month, and she suggested a recipe inspired by her summer garden.
I am elbow-deep in zucchini noodles when I remember God’s words in Isaiah: “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you” (Isa. 42:9). God spoke to me of gardens and fruit, long before I saw them in my own eyes. I received his words then in the only way possible. As metaphors and images and dreams. But now time has been fulfilled. We have made a garden, and we are eating its fruit. Just as God said.
He promised, and I eat his words. I sauté them in oil and garlic. I roast them at high heat. I shred them and peel them into ribbons. I toss them in salads and share them with neighbors. They are delicious. Beyond anything I dreamed when I ordered those seeds on dark January night.
Roots and Sky, pg. 178-79
Having never had a vegetable garden that even came close to Christie’s, I can only imagine the delightful panic one must feel when elbow-deep in zucchini noodles and of having so many vegetables that you are scrambling to find a way to use them. Quite a contrast to my garden last year, where I got roughly six cherry tomatoes and two eggplants. Nonetheless, I am quite capable of buying vegetables from the store or the farmer’s market and one of my favorite summer dishes is panzanella, a simple bread and tomato salad. It is made up of rustic bread, toasted with olive oil, tossed with juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and pickled red onions, then finished with more olive oil and vinegar and ribbons of fresh basil.
If you believe the best part of salads are the toppings, then you will love panzanella. If you find that lettuce is simply a disturbance on your plate, this bread and tomato salad will set you free. And if you do love lettuce, feel free to add some peppery arugula. When I serve this to my family, I find all it needs is some grilled chicken and it is a complete meal.
- 6 cups rustic bread, cut into 1" cubes (bread can be fresh or a few days old)
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 english cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2" slices
- 10 basil leaves, cut into ribbons
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (reserved from pickled onions)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 and toss the cubes of bread with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then toss to make sure it toasts evenly. Bake for 5 more minutes, for a total of 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
- While the bread is baking, place the onion slices in a bowl and pour the 4 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar over. Allow to pickle for 15 minutes. This will take some of the bite out of the fresh onions.
- After 15 minutes, drain the onions (save the vinegar for the dressing) and place them in a large bowl. Place the reserved vinegar and other dressing ingredients in a mason jar, then with the lid on, shake until it is well mixed.
- Add the bread, tomatoes, cucumber and basil to the bowl with the onions. Pour the dressing over and toss until everything is coated. All the salad to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.