While the Wednesday Larchmont Farmer’s Market is smaller in size than Sunday’s, the opportunity to find delicious fresh ingredients to make fabulous meals is very much available. I love shopping on Wednesdays, as there are fewer people crowding the tables, which gives me a chance to peruse slowly and chat with the vendors.
I always stop at Tommy and Atticus bread baker. The gorgeous loaves are such a taunt. Who can say no to home baked bread with the baker there in front of you? Garret McPerry, the owner and baker, has shared with me his story. He had been baking for years as a hobby, then the Pandemic changed his career path as an accountant. He now bakes full time. Good for us!
Last week I bought a loaf of his country white. A huge, crispy crusted specimen with a slightly sour, chewy interior. Perfection. Knowing that this loaf was too large for just sandwiches and such, I decided to make a Panzanella (translated: “bread” salad) with some of the loaf. I then picked up ripe heirloom tomatoes and fragrant basil from Country Fresh Farms. You want to use very ripe tomatoes for this salad as the bread absorbs the juices. At another table I found a gorgeous red onion, and then a fennel bulb at Frecker’s Farms table. I highly recommend adding fennel to much of your cooking.
If bread salad sounds a bit odd to you, your’e not alone. My husband was less than enthusiastic (“bread salad?”) when I shared with him my day’s cooking. I actually had to convince him to try this Tuscan specialty. And his response? “Wow! This is amazing! It tastes like a deconstructed bruschetta!” He had seconds and thirds.
So there you have it. One person’s panzanella is another person’s deconstructed bruschetta. Whatever you call it, it’s a great way to use up bread, especially a loaf that’s getting stale. You can use a baguette or any other bread that has a firm crispy crust.
Please note that this salad needs to be eaten that day, preferably within a few hours of assembling, so make just enough, as I did. Double or triple if making for a large family.
2 cups day old bread cut in large cubes. I used 2 extra thick slices from the middle of the Country White bread from Tommy and Atticus.
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1/2 tsp salt kosher salt
2-3 ripe medium sized tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut in large chunks
2 T thinly sliced red onion
3 T chopped fresh basil, plus a few leaves for garnish
2 T chopped fennel fronds (optional)
1 small glove garlic minced, 1/2 tsp or so
1/4 T salt
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 T red wine vinegar
1/4 cup good EVOO
Mix first 4 ingredients until well combined. Slowly whisk in EVOO until incorporated.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put bread cubes in a large bowl and toss with the 1 T EVOO until coated, add more oil if necessary, add 1/2 tsp salt and toss. Spread bread cubes on a metal sheet pan. Toast in the oven about 10 -15 minutes or until getting crisp and the edges are browning, tossing halfway to evenly cook. Be careful not to burn.
While the bread is toasting, put the chunks of tomatoes in the bowl that the bread was in and toss in the residual oil and salt. With your hands, squeeze some of the juice out of the tomatoes. The bread will soak this lusciousness up.
When bread is ready, let it cool in the pan on a wire rack. When bread is no longer hot, add to the bowl of tomatoes and toss. Add the onion, basil, fennel fronds and spoonsful of the vinaigrette, until dressed as you like, and toss again. Taste. Add more dressing if desired. Top with fresh cracked pepper, basil leaves and fennel fronds.
The salad can be eaten right away though I like to give it 30 minutes for the bread to absorb the juices and the flavors to blend.
Well this looks incredible!!! I am so grateful for our Wednesday farmers market!!