Tuesday, September 3, 2013

roasted pepper and tomato panzanella.

As a 28 year old who before last week had never been on a business trip, it’s safe to say that I had slightly skewed expectations of the experience.  Somehow I convinced myself that it was a paid vacation (hotel rooms and expensed meals, hooray!) and then I went on one and realized a business trip involves you performing your same job in a different location which really is not as cool as it sounds. 

The part I hated the most was all the eating out.  I know that sounds far-fetched.  As someone who keeps notebooks filled with restaurants I hope to someday eat at, the idea of eating out every meal on someone else’s dime should be my dream.  But it wasn't because it loses the appeal of eating out (it’s suppose to be a special occasion thing!).  Not to mention there is something slightly lonely about eating by yourself (I missed my plate-cleaning partner in crime). 

I spent yesterday in the kitchen – cooking, baking, and on the couch catching up with the September issue of Bon Appetit (I needed a break from all the fall fashion reading I've been doing. Shocking, I know.).  I dog-eared most of the issue, there seemed to be something delicious on almost every page, but the dish that really caught my eye was the roasted pepper panzanella.  It said end of summer eating. It was also everything I wanted to eat after a week of eating in someone else’s kitchen.  

This dish is comforting yet exciting.  Healthy(ish) and deeply satisfying.  The flavors are bold and assertive (red wine vinegar wakes everything up) and those flavors pair perfectly with creamy cheese, sweet peppers, and earthy herbs.  The bread manages in a short period of time to soak up all the juices making it soft and flavorful. It's magical and perfect and it reminds of why I love eating in my own home.  And why I love cooking oh so much.  

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Panzanella
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 2 for dinner (with a little little left over for your lunch) or 4 - 6 for a appetizer portion  

So I played around with this recipe a little (because I can’t help myself sometimes) by adding in some roasted tomatoes,   swapping the buffalo mozzarella for burrata (because I always look for ways to add burrata to a dish), and finishing the dish with a flurry of torn basil.  This is end of summer eating at its finest. If you are anything like me and my other half, you will find yourself saying after your plate is cleared "that was really, really good".  

3 large red or orange (or a combination) bell peppers (about 1 ½ pounds)
3 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes, diced into 1 inch pieces  (tomatoes the size of small apple or peach)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ - ½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons basil, torn into small pieces, divided
½ loaf country-style bread (about 12 ounces), torn into pieces or cut into cubes
1 – 2 ounces thinly sliced spicy salami (hot sopressata is perfect here)
1 ball of burrata or buffalo mozzarella (about 6 – 8 ounces)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, place the peppers and the diced tomatoes.  Season the diced tomatoes with salt and pepper.  Cook the peppers and tomatoes about 25 – 30 minutes until the peppers are blackened in spots and blistered all over and the tomatoes are shriveled and caramelized in color.  Transfer peppers to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit 15 minutes.  Keep oven on.

In a large bowl, toss bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake, tossing occasionally, until crisp on the outside but still chewy in the center 8-10 minutes.  Let croutons cool a couple of minutes. 

Remove the skins from the peppers with your fingers or the back of a butter knife.  Remove the seeds as well.  Cut the peppers into 1 inch strips. 

Place tomatoes in the bowl your tossed the bread in (saving dish-washing duty!) along with the peppers, garlic, vinegar, red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons basil, and the remaining oil.  Taste and season with salt and pepper. 

Add the cooled croutons to the bowl, along with the salumi.  Toss to combine.  Arrange the mixture on a platter with pieces of the cheese.  Top with remaining tablespoon of basil and a sprinkle of sea salt. 

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