Panzanella

Panzanella is a salad originating in the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, and Lazio. Basically, it’s a cuisine of homegrown ingredients and in Italy is traditionally prepared during the summer season.  

Almost any type of vegetable can be added from the garden such as; radishes, peppers, carrots, corn and green onions. Hard boiled eggs, olives, grilled chicken & shrimp can also be added to round out the dish.

In the Lazio Region of Italy, tomatoes and onions are omitted. Instead, capers, garlic, anchovies, hot red pepper flakes and parsley are pulverized together with a mortar and pestle.

The original intention behind this dish is the use of day-old or sometimes, few-day old bread. Traditionally, the bread is cubed then soaked in water until soft; then all the moisture is squeezed out until dry. The bread is then chopped or crumbled into small pieces. 

I personally prefer to use the day old bread cubes and either sauté slowly in olive oil with a little garlic for 5-10 minutes, or toast in 350 degree oven until light brown. Either way you choose start with really good bread and you can’t go wrong.  

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Panzanella

Makes 4 servings 

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle

2 cups day old very good Italian or French bread, cubed

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, split; or 4 vine-ripen tomatoes quartered

4 leaves of basil

1 fresh thyme leaf, chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large red onion, chopped 1/4 inch pieces

1 stalk celery, chopped 1/4 inch pieces

1 medium-sized cucumber, peeled & split seeded and chopped

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 

Sea salt

Fresh ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 cups hearts of romaine, torn into small pieces 

Soak bread in water until it softens, then squeeze all water out. 

Or, heat a large sauté pan to medium temperature add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add bread and slowly cook until bread is light brown tossing occasionally. 

Make a dressing in the bottom of a large salad bowl with vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper, garlic, and onion. Allow to marinate two minutes and then add olive oil and mix well. Add tomatoes, celery, and cucumber, Tear basil leaves and add to salad with romaine. Toss and serve immediately.  

Additional Greens: radicchio, heart of escarole, Arugula, chicory

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Garbanzo on the Side

Garbanzo is the another name for the chickpea. Here’s a salad that takes longer to say it than to make it. The key to success in this combo is to only use garden or farm fresh tomatoes. It has a cool refreshing mediterranean taste and feel. It's a perfect side-dish to make on a hot evening in the kitchen.

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Tomato & Chick Pea Salad

Makes four side servings

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle 

1 Pint red grape or cherry tomatoes, rinsed & split a half pint 

1 Pint yellow grape or cherry tomatoes, rinsed & split a half pint 

2 cups (or 2 cans) chick peas (aka garbanzo, ceci, Indian pea) drained & rinsed

1/4 cup olive oil

juice of one lemon

zest from one lemon

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 mint leaves chopped

2 Tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped

one teaspoon hot sauce

fresh ground black pepper

pinch sea salt

In a large bowl mix olive oil, lemon juice, zest, garlic, mint, parsley, hot sauce, pepper, and salt. Add all tomatoes, mix and let marinate for 10 minutes. Add chick peas, toss and allow to sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving. Serve with a grilled slice of Naan. 

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All Tossed

With spring’s arrival, I'm inspired to toss up a fresh seasonal salad. Now is the time to really enjoy spring greens when they are sweet and at their peak; later in summer the flavors tend to bitter a bit with the heat. Whether you are preparing salad for two or planning your Mother's Day brunch, here are few tips + recipes to make plating up your spring salad even better.

Be sure to do the prep with your delicate spring lettuce; submerge leaves in cold water repeatedly until there is no evidence of soil or sand. Then give those leaves a good spin, so your homemade vinaigrette will easily coat your leaves. Wet leaves repell the dressing.

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Good Stuff Pick - OXO Salad Spinner

George's Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Makes 2 1/2 cups | Know Your Fire Cookbook

1 Tablespoons chives

1 tsp chopped parsley

1 tsp capers or chopped green olives

1/2 tsp lite soy sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort or Stilton

1 recipe Basic Vinaigette (recipe to follow)

Combine the chives, parsley,capers or olives, and lite soy sauce with the cream and half the cheese and blend well. Add the vinaigrette and stir in the remaining cheese. Let the dressing stand at room temperature for a minimum of 1 hour before serving.

George's Basic Vinaigrette

Makes 2 cups | Know Your Fire Cookbook

"Use whichever vinegar appeals to you: If using balsamic, cut the amount in half." 

1 1/4 cups virgin olive oil

3/4 cups vinegar

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and beat with a fork or a whisk to blend. Or place the ingredients in a jar with a tightly fitting lid and shake until they're well blended.

Allow the dressing to sit at room temperature for 24 hours to develop the flavor.

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There are four main kinds of lettuce to choose from: Butterhead (Bibb), Crisphead (Iceberg), Looseleaf (Cutting) and Romaine. 

Looseleaf

Looseleaf lettuce make colorful tender leaf salads in chartreuse, deep green and bronzy reds. 

Crisphead

Crisphead lettuce contain curved, overlapping leaves which form crispy, firm round heads. Inside, creamy white leaves are tightly packed. Deep green outer leaves are delicious too.

Romaine

Romaine lettuce contain elongated, thick leaves which are crisp and savory.

Butterhead

Butterhead lettuce is the largest and best-flavored group of lettuces. Tender leaf lettuces form a tightly folded head with delicate buttery flavor. Typically smaller heads than other types. 

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