Summer Panzanella With Pea Tendrils and Prosciutto

Summer has descended upon the fair city of Boston, with steamy streets and humidity that makes you want to hide somewhere air conditioned ALL THE TIME.  With this heat comes the need to NOT COOK.  I want to avoid turning on the oven like nothing else, I haven’t baked in weeks and poor boyfriend has been living on things that are flash fried or grilled.  And while that’s fine, in theory, I’m still learning about grills (mainly how to light mine… who knew that charcoal was such a tricksy creature?).

So in my efforts to “beat the heat” and not break the bank I have been focusing on cool easy to make foods in my kitchen, sweet potato hash, ice cream (boyfriend got ma a late birthday gift of an ice cream maker, he must love me), and this Summer Panzanella.  Now panzanella is something I’ve been wanting to try out with simple enough seeming directions and always a mouthwatering looking image at the end.  This first attempt was no exception.  And the best part? I spent maybe 10 minutes standing in front of the stove – total.  Most of this salad was just chopping and tossing.

A bit about my sordid past of lusting after panzanella:  One day while in college and living in dorms equipped with full cable access and the food network I saw the sweater-vest clad Micheal Chiarello prepare this “rustic” bread salad in his perfect studio kitchen with the promise that anyone would love it, well – given that they don’t have a gluten allergy.  I promptly forgot about panzanella until about three years later when boyfriend’s father went to California on a business trip.  The night before as he began to fall asleep on our *awesome* fold-out couch he asked if we wanted anything from Cali – I asked for a cookbook that captured some local cuisine (honestly thinking independent published and intimate a la The Enchanted Broccoli Forest ).  He brought me Micheal Chiarello’s Easy Entertaining*.  And there was a picture of the same panzanella I had seen him make years earlier on the food network *swoon.*  I immediately googled Panzanella recipe and came up with about a million (ok there were probably only 500 results) among the results were Smitten Kitchen, Cheap Healthy Good, and epicurious (though they have everything so that’s not really surprising).  I decided to tuck it away and forgot about it AGAIN for a year.  Which brings us to this my first (perfect) attempt at panzanella.

Summer Panzanella with Pea Tendrils and Prosciutto
Inspired my Micheal Chiarello and the frickin’ heat
Note: All ingredients can be omitted at your preference except the tomatoes and bread as they are really the foundation of the whole salad.  Unless otherwise specified I chopped everything to a 1 1/2-2 inch cube

1/2-3/4 loaf of day-old  crusty bread (I used Ciabatta)
3-4 vine ripe tomatoes or 1-1/2pts of grape tomatoes halved
1/2 pound pea tendrils
1/4 pound prosciutto
1 Sweet pepper (Red, Yellow, or orange whatever color you’re feeling)
1 Zucchini
1 Red Onion, a Vidalia or scallions would work as well though not as pretty
3-4 cloves garlic, minced fine
1/3 Pound Kalamata Olives, whole
1/2 Pound Mozzarella, chopped to 1/2 inch cubes
10 large leaves of basil, chopped into fine strips** (you can use more if you really like Basil)
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar (I used blueberry because it’s delicious, but any decent quality balsamic is fine)
Flaky Sea Slat (if you have it it’s prettier but regular is fine)

Toast the bread cubes with a healthy glug of olive oil in a pan until they’re crispy -about 5 minutes then put them in a big bowl and set it aside.
Saute the red onion, zucchini, and garlic in the same pan with a little more oil (if you need it) – another 5 minutes and add those to the toasted bread.
Chop all the other ingredients and pile them in the bowl, see why I had you get a big bowl now?  Add about 2 glugs of olive oil (2-3 Tbs) to the salad and gently toss, drizzle balsamic over the whole thing (1-2 tsp) and gently toss again.
Let it sit for about 20 minutes in the fridge before eating (I like this salad better cold).  Watch something ridiculous like Invader Zim (so GIR can teach you how to make waffles!) or an episode of Micheal Chiarello’s show on Food Network, make fun of the sweater vest, please.
Serve this salad with a light sprinkling of sea salt and a basil sprig on the side (because it’s pretty).

*A note about this book – he asks that you have very specific very expensive ingredients fully stocked in your pantry at all times (something I JUST CAN’T GET BEHIND) so I looked at the pictures and planned to make the recipes in a more wallet friendly fashion.

**I find the easiest way to do this is to roll the basil leaves up in a tight cigar and slice from leaf tip to stem,it’s called chiffonade!

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