I wish more cookbooks put together sample menus. Usually putting a meal together is left as an exercise for the reader. This makes no sense to me, especially when it is a restaurant themed cookbook. I recently stumbled across an archive of Ad Hoc menus. The restaurant publishes their constantly changing menu everyday and inuyaki put a couple years worth in one place! This is a great place to find seasonal inspiration. Searching for a salad to go with my recent Paella dinner I found a garden pazanella! Since I was headed to the Palo Alto farmers’ market I let the produce guide me and put this salad together. A nice tip I picked up somewhere is to layer the salad. In other words put some of the dressed greens down then some bread then some tomatoes, etc then repeat. This ensures the salad is well mixed. My new other tip is to try harder to not forget the amazing cucumbers being kept cold in the fridge!
Garden Panzanella Guidelines
Butter lettuce (preferably from Fat Cabbage Farms 🙂 )
Loaf of Ciabatta or your favorite bread
Variety of cucumbers
Variety of small tomatoes
Variety of carrots
Nice handful of chives
Nice handful of tarragon
Parsley, if handy
Few tablespoons chopped shallots
Champagne vinegar (or your favorite)
Extra Olive Oil (decent kind)
Salt and Pepper
I know one of the owner’s of Fat Cabbage Farms. When I saw her amazing lettuce the salad quickly came together in my head. Heat a couple tablespoons of unsalted butter and a splash of oil in a skillet and drop the garlic clove in. Cut the crust off the bread (great for bread crumbs) and tear the bread into bite sized pieces. Add the bread to the skillet and cook over low heat (just trying to get them brown and crispy without drying them out) stirring every so often. Sprinkle a little salt to make sure they are seasoned well. A really great crouton has the ability to elevate a salad out of the mundane! Mince the shallot and put it in a bowl (or whatever you use to make dressing) with the vinegar and some salt and pepper and let sit for at least ten minutes. This will soften the shallots and take a bit of bite out of them. Use your oil of choice (extra virgin for me) and add until you get the balance you like (typically 3 or 4 parts oil to one part acid). Don’t forget to taste the dressing after adding the oil to check for seasoning. Prep all the veggies and chop the herbs dropping the sliced radishes into ice water to keep them crunchy and making sure the lettuce is well dried. When you are ready to serve add the herbs to the dressing and dress the lettuce in a bowl. Don’t forget to taste again. I often find that even with a dressing that tasted good when I dress the greens I need a bit more salt and pepper. It is best to dress each of the components separately so you can get them all just right but in this case I didn’t bother dressing the carrots or radishes and just put a little salt on the tomatoes. I did splash some dressing on the croutons though. Lay 1/3 – 1/2 of the lettuce down on your serving plate then 1/3 – 1/2 of each of the remaining items then repeat until everything is done. I sprinkled a little extra parsley on the top because I had some handy. I have not made a chive-tarragon dressing before but will definitely do it again. It tasted great especially on the crunchy but chewy croutons.