This weekend we went to our friend Charles' house in the Berkshires. Among the houseguests was a rather famous food writer, whose work I admire greatly. I was excited to meet her, and also to kick my feet up, be a houseguest, and most importantly not cook.
No such luck. It became apparent at the very last minute that I was in charge of dinner on Friday night.
Quick. Don't panic. Breathe....
We did our failsafe Batali-inspired spice-rubbed steaks (even though we usually make this in colder months) and a big brightly colored Panzanella (bread salad). Panzanella is a great dish to make if you have many dinner guests, don't want to work too hard, and want to knock people's socks off.
Cooking the meal ended up being more of a pleasure than a headache. With a simple plan and a glass of cold white in hand we actually were relaxed. And when it was all over, the guests, including the famous food writer, were smiling.
- 1/2 loaf stale bread, torn into bit sized pieces
- 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1 cucumber, cut down the center lengthwise, seeded, and diced
- 1/2 red onion, cut into very thin strips
- 1 bell pepper, cut into strips
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cups greens (mixed lettuces or arugula)
- 10 fresh basil leaves, shredded
- In a serving bowl toss together the bread, tomatoes, cucumber, the onion, bell pepper and capers. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Let salad sit for at least 10 minutes before serving time. When ready to serve, add the salad greens and basil. Toss until the salad is combined well. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.