Panzanella is one of the easiest recipes to make and the most delicious. Every bite will taste like a bit of summertime. Since it’s been so cold and groggy lately around the country, I figured I’d post something to cheer everyone up. It is not always possible to find heirloom tomatoes this time of year, but if you can, definitely grab them! Heirloom tomatoes are like the beauty queens of the tomato world. They are colorful, sweet, and just overall better than all the other tomatoes. This quick fix will surely become one of your favorite meals.
How pretty is that?
Serving size: 3
3-4 Heirloom tomatoes, depending on size
1 red onion (it can be small, you will only need a few slices)
10-20 leaves of fresh basil (a package from the grocery store will do if you aren’t growing it)
2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar OR 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Ricotta cheese (you will need 3 big spoonfuls)
1 Loaf of day old French bread
Turn the oven on to high broil. Slice up the loaf of bread and then cut those slices into chunks. You will probably only need half the loaf to make enough croutons for this recipe. Drizzle the bottom of your dish or baking sheet with some olive oil and spread the bread chunks on top. Drizzle the tops of the bread with olive oil and then shake a bit of garlic powder and cracked pepper on top. Pop the bread chunks in the oven until they become golden brown. Make sure to watch carefully because these little babies can go from golden brown to burnt very quickly and no one likes burnt croutons.
Cut up the tomatoes into chunks. Julienne the basil, which means cut it into thin strips.
Cut a few thin (3-4) slices of red onion and then chop into small pieces. If you love red onions, add another slice or two. Throw the veggies and basil into a large bowl. As for the vinegar, not everyone has red wine vinegar lying around the house so you can substitute balsamic if that is easier. I made this recipe twice (as you will read later) and I used a different type of vinegar each time. I think balsamic is amazing but it can be a bit stronger tasting than the red wine vinegar, so just use a little less. Cooking is more about tasting and less about measurements so I gave a range for the vinegars. Add a few tablespoons and taste. If you would like more acidity, add another tablespoon or so. Next, add the olive oil. You can also measure this, but I just pour around the bowl twice and it seems to work out just fine. Toss the ingredients until everything is well coated.
When you’re ready to serve, scoop a good amount of the tomato mix into each bowl. Then, add the croutons to the top. Finally, add a big spoonful of ricotta cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and its ready to eat!
Beer Pairing: J. Marie Saison/Farmhouse Ale by River North Brewery
This beer pairing was my first fail. When I made this recipe to begin with, I bought Hereafter by Perennial Artisan Ales. I was excited about it because it was from St. Louis, my hometown. I guess I let the excitement and the interesting bottle design cloud my judgment because the flavors did not mix well with the meal. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good tasting ale, it just didn’t add to the dish. Instead of the flavors working together, they were just sitting around, not getting along. On its own, Perennial has a strong taste of pear with a more subtle hint of sage. I was hoping for a bit more sage and dryness out of this one, but was left with too much sweet. It was also a bit sour at first, which I could’ve done without because I already had sourness coming from the vinegar in the dish. In the future, I will buy this beer again but pair it with a more savory meal. In this case, the sweetness of the tomatoes combined with the sweetness of the brew was just too overwhelming.
This is my beer fail ^
I chatted with some friends and decided to try again, this time with a farmhouse ale. First of all, this meal looks like it came right out of the garden so I should’ve bought a farmhouse ale to begin with. I went into the beer cave and came out with J. Marie Saison/Farmhouse ale by River North Brewery. According to the reviews on Beer Advocate, people weren’t loving it all on its own. I wouldn’t know. I drank the entire bottle with the meal and it was the best beer pairing I’ve done so far. I mean it was literally PERFECT. The first thing you will notice is the explosion of basil flavors going on in your mouth. Seriously, this beer takes tomato panzanella to the next level. It also accentuates the pepper on the croutons and the spice of the onion. I found the ale to be refreshing and citrusy with a bit of honey. The small amount of sweetness blended well instead of masking the flavors of the dish. Overall, I would probably eat/drink this combo everyday of my life if I could. It was that good.