Archive for July, 2010

Cornbread Panzanella

I have been enjoying a wonderful new (to me) cookbook called Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster.  Some of you may be familiar with Sara Foster…I first heard of her because she used to write the food column in one of my favorite magazines (now defunct), Cottage Living.  I noticed the name because I always thought the food she wrote about looked very good, and all the recipes I tried were great.  Then, come to find out, her restaurant (more like a cafe-type thing) is an institution in the Triangle.  Their Chapel Hill location was where Michael took me for breakfast our first morning we moved to the area.  I was totally tickled to be in her restaurant after liking her recipes for so long.

So you may wonder why it took me TWO YEARS to finally get a hold of one of her cookbooks, and that is a great question.  I think every time I looked at the books I just thought they looked so similiar to Barefoot Contessa’s type of foods that I didn’t need yet another one when I was already plenty obsessed with one great chef.  But our friends the Reules gradually convinced me…saying that her stuff was faster than Barefoot Contessa recipes and more adaptable for weeknights.  I read this cookbook from cover to cover while we were at the beach with them over Memorial Day and decided I had to have a copy.  The recipes are broken into logical sections (salads, sides, meat mains, pasta, breakfast, dessert) and her approach is that the recipes can all be adapted based on what you have on hand and based on seasonal ingredients.  She gives lots of useful tips on prep work and on what dishes would go best with other recipes.

I’ve tried a few of the recipes already and this one is definitely my favorite.  I can’t get enough of tomatoes in the summer…or anytime, for that matter, but most especially when they are in season.  I love panzanella salads (italian bread salad) because the texture of the bread with the tomatoes is so yummy.  There are a lot of good recipes for panzanella but this one, with cornbread instead of the usual white bread, is scrumptious!  Because the bread gets soaked in the dressing, it is not great leftover.  I cut this recipe in half to serve as salad for four, with no leftovers, so I’d recommend halving it unless you are serving a large group.  I found a particularly good prepared cornbread from a grocery store that seemed really most with some of it’s own grease, so I didn’t coat it in any additional olive oil – you can decide whether you think yours needs the extra coat before toasting or not.  Also, we didn’t make this with avocado – I just didn’t think it was needed.  I bet it would be good, but I’d consider it optional.


Cornbread Panzanella

From Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster

Serves 6, can be halved

4 cups cornbread in 1/2 – inch cubes, preferably day-old

½ cup olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 beefsteak or large heirloom tomatoes (about 1 pound)

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

¼ cup red wine vinegar

6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

1 avocado , halved, pit removed, and cut into ½ – inch cubes

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Place the cornbread cubes in a large mixing bowl and toss with 3 Tbs of the olive oil and the salt and pepper.  Spread the cornbread in a single even layer on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted and golden, about 15 minutes.  Let the cornbread cool slightly.
  3. Return the cornbread to the bowl you tossed it in.  Add the tomatoes, onion, and salt and pepper.  Whisk the remaining olive oil with the vinegar and drizzle over the salad.  Add the basil and the avocado cubes and toss gently, taking care not to mash the avocado.  Serve immediately.

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So, not to be totally paranoid…but I am ever so slightly worried about what kind of food we’re going to be putting into this little one’s mouth down the road.  I’ve read enough about chemicals in processed foods we adults eat to be careful about where we get our food from.  But I have a feeling we’re about to take it to another level.  Especially when you read things like this, a study that found lead in 85% of over 400 kids snacks and juices that were tested.  Including, mind you, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods generic brand and Earth’s Best Organic!   If you’re not even safe buying stuff from the ‘good guys’, what to do?

The answer in general, I think, for both kids food and adult food, is to cook.  If you’re using whole foods to make what you eat, you’ve cut out all the processing chemicals, even if you’re not buying organic vegetables, etc.  We try to eat that way, and I feel good about knowing (usually) where our food comes from.  So I already planned to try making baby food (which is essentially just food-processed soft foods, not complicated ‘cooking’) for most of what our babies eat, and then feeding them the whole foods we eat when they are ready for solids.  I have no doubt that some of the clever snacks that are good for the in-between stages will still make their way into our house, just because with small kids you have to do what works.  But my resolve to try doing what we can on our own at home is only going to be strengthened the more I read things like this study!!!

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