The beach towns come alive each summer with tourism. The streets are bustling; traffic is a nightmare with convertibles, the beaches are overflowing with umbrellas and it’s standing room only in the trolley. There’s certainly an excitement that comes along with the commotion and once again I’m reminded how fortunate I am to live here every. day. While it’s fun to partake in the liveliness it’s also a blessing to get our town back once school starts.
I always think of September and October as a bit of a gift from God for anyone who lives in a town like Laguna. School is back in session which works for and against us. We still have that warm sun-kissed weather but unlike the past few months parking is easy, there’s no traffic and most importantly the beaches are empty. Unfortunately Felix is in school from 9am-3pm so our window of opportunity to take advantage of all the emptiness is limited.
Though most places begin to see a shift in temperature come October, temperatures are still on the rise here in Laguna. Seeing we don’t have air conditioning, finding me in the kitchen has been few and far between these days. I feel a bit guilty about it all which is why I’ve been doing my best to serve a hot breakfast each morning. But somewhere around lunch time I throw up the white towel and surrender. The heat has stolen any chance of me getting back in the kitchen. So for the past few months we’ve been eating a “french picnic” (meat, cheese, bread paired with some cucumbers and fruit) or some form of take-out for dinner.
Although I have no intention of standing in front of an open flame anytime soon I am certainly feeling a bit more motivated to get back to cooking. So naturally something like a panzanella is perfect. Being Italian, Panzanella was a staple dish in our home. It can be served as a main course, afternoon snack or a side salad. Aside from the vibrant colors, I love that there really is no exact recipe to follow. You can play around with adding different ingredients (think bell peppers, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, etc.) depending on what you have on hand.
Not only does this panzanella recipe capitalize on the last of the summer season produce but it’s one of those beautiful meals that allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. With the crunchy bread, crisp cucumber, salty olives with the sweet tomatoes this salad is a complete treat for the senses. Plus it can be whipped up in no time at all and easily prepped earlier in the day. Scroll down for the full non-recipe 😉
basket of cherry tomatoes (halved)
2-3 whole vine tomatoes cut into chunks (optional idea is to roast them to add some smokey flavor)
3 persian cucumbers
1/2 of a red onion
handful of kalamative olives (halved)
3 thick slices of crunchy bread
handful of basil (diced)
handful of mint (diced)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
sea salt + pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
- Cut the bread into 1/2-inch small squares. Toast until the they are lightly toasty, about 8-10 minutes.
- Preheat the broiler. Line the baking sheet with foil and place the tomatoes on the prepared sheet. Broil until the skins begin to char and blacken, 2-3 minutes. Turn the tomatoes and broil for another 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Remove and discard any loose skin from the tomatoes (it’s fine if a few charred bits remain), and then roughly chop. Transfer to a large bowl along with the olives and cherry tomatoes.
- Slice the cucumber on the diagonal about 1/2-inch thick.
- Using the mandoline thinly slice the red onion and toss along with the cucumber, tomatoes and olives.
- Whisk the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and pour over salad. Gently toss salad and allow to stand at room temperature for up to 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.
- Gently fold in the toasted bread. Finish with a heaping handful of basil, mint and some feta cheese. Season with some sea salt and a pepper.
Recipe adapted from Williams Sonoma Taste