Tuscan Panzanella Salad

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Let me start by saying that I absolutely LOOOOOOOVE Panzanella Salad. It’s light, crisp, refreshing and those garlic infused bread cubes are heavenly! It’s also a super easy salad to whip up and will make great use of all those wonderful tomatoes, cucumbers and basil in your summer garden.

Panazella is a Tuscan bread salad consisting of cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, a little basil and garlic infused toasted bread cubes. It is typically a very popular summer salad and goes great as a side to any BBQ you’re serving up. Some recipes will call for red wine vinegar however, I much prefer a really nice dark, thick balsamic as I feel it adds so much better flavor. My all time favorite balsamic vinegar is one called “25 Star Balsamic” that is available from The Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson, NY. You can readily purchase it in the store or online by clicking right here .

To save time, you can make the garlic infused bread cubes ahead of time and store in a sealed plastic bag until you’re ready to use them. Take note, the bread cubes will quickly begin to soak up all of the oil, vinegar and moisture from the vegetables so for maximum freshness and taste, toss the bread cubes with the salad only about 15 minutes before serving to avoid soggy, mushy bread. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 loaf of good rustic bread, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbs good quality balsamic vinegar, more as needed
  • 1 tbs minced shallot
  • pinch of sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 hothouse (English) cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into chunks
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

Instructions

For the bread cubes – Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a small saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot remove from the heat and add the garlic cloves. Set aside and allow the garlic to infuse into the oil. Once the oil is cooled, discard the garlic cloves.

Toss the bread cubes with 2 tbs of the garlic infused oil. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden and crispy, about 7-10 minutes. Occasionally turn the cubes while baking.

For the vinaigrette – Combine the remaining garlic infused oil with the vinegar, shallot, sugar, salt and pepper and mix well.

For the salad – In a large bowl, toss the toasted bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and basil with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Set aside for about 10-15 minutes before serving so that the flavors have time to blend. Sprinkle with additional basil and serve.

 

“How-To” Canning – Fresh Tomatoes

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Now that summer is here you will inevitably end up with baskets of fresh tomatoes either from your own garden or from someone else’s. Instead of letting these red, ripe beauties go to waste “can” them for later use. In those cold, dark days of winter you’ll appreciate the sweet taste of summer when you go to make your homemade tomato sauce.

Don’t be afraid to try out canning in your kitchen! It’s a common belief that canning is hard and tedious, but trust me, it’s really not! It requires just a few essential tools and some time. Also, I recommend getting yourself a good book on canning to get you started.

 The All New Ball Book Of Canning And Preserving: Over 350 of the Best Canned, Jammed, Pickled, and Preserved Recipes

Some items that are needed are a non-reactive pot, canning jars in various sizes, a jar lifter, a funnel, and a canning rack. These items can be purchased individually or as a kit, I have found the best prices for canning materials to be on Amazon.

Granite Ware 0718-1 Enamel-on-Steel Canning Kit, 9-Piece

The first step in canning fresh tomatoes is to prepare them by removing their skins. This is easily done by blanching them. (You can find information on blanching here: “How-To” Cooking – Blanching) Once the tomatoes are prepared they need to be cooked slightly before canning. Below are the steps to canning fresh tomatoes as outlined on the Fresh Preserving website. When canning, be sure to follow each of the steps properly and do not rush or skip anything. Doing so will result in improperly canned food that is susceptible to mold and contamination. If canning is done right, you’ll have a bounty of preserves, fruits, and vegetables to enjoy all year long!

Materials Needed

Instructions

  1. PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water then place them in hot, not boiling, water until ready to use. Set bands aside.
  2. WASH the tomatoes then blanche them to remove the skins. Dip them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately dip in cold water. Slip off skins. Trim away any green areas and cut out core. Leave tomatoes whole or cut into halves or quarters.
  3. CUT the tomatoes into quarters to measure about 2 cups. Transfer to a large stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a potato masher, crush tomatoes to release juices. While maintaining a gentle boil and stirring to prevent scorching, quarter additional tomatoes and add to the saucepan as you work. The remaining tomatoes do not need to be crushed, as they will soften with heating and stirring. Continue until all tomatoes are added, then boil gently for 5 minutes.
  4. ADD ½ tsp Ball® Citric Acid or 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar. Add ¼ tsp Ball®Citric Acid or 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar.
  5. PACK the hot tomatoes into jars leaving a generous 1/2 inch at the top of jar. Press tomatoes into the jar until the spaces between them fill with juice, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot tomatoes. Wipe the rim and center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight. Place jar in boiling water canner. Repeat until all jars are filled.
  6. PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

**TIP** – When canning, do NOT work like a factory line filling all of the jars at once then sealing them. Fill a jar with contents then apply the lid and seal before moving to the next jar.  Boil the jars all at once.