The farmers at my local market are selling the last of their tomatoes, our basil plant is spending the night indoors for fear of frost, and the days are getting rapidly shorter. I realize that fall is already in full swing, but I hope you will humor me as I sneak in one last summer recipe. I've made this simple panzanella a few times over the last two months and it continues to provide a lovely balance between fresh and comforting, even as the temperature begins to drop.
I celebrated my 29th birthday recently with a weekend visit from my parents and Nick. We enjoyed good food and drinks and spent ample time outside — my favorite things. We made a trip out to Allerton Park to picnic, hike, and explore the estate — and we were mesmerized by the giant Osage Apples.
Once the weekend plans were over, the visitors left, and I settled back into writing papers — I felt a bit lonely when my actual birthday came and went without much fanfare. I've always been the type to throw a birthday party, and it felt odd to let a year go by without doing so.
Though, sometimes it is nice to be alone – to stop and be grateful for long walks, new thrift store scarves, and the opportunity to be back in school – even if I don't currently have the kind of life that is conducive to Tuesday-night-birthday-dinner-parties.
Adapted from Saveur
1/4 C plus 2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 C of good quality, crusty, slightly stale bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 C of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 a medium shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 a medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350F. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and the butter in a large ovenproof skillet. When the butter has melted, turn off the heat, add the garlic and bread cubes, and mix well. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the bread is golden brown and toasted, and the garlic is fragrant, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, mix together the tomatoes, the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, and the vinegar. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, combine the bread, tomatoes and basil. Serve immediately.