THE BEST THING I EVER ATE

Red and yellow peppers, cucumbers, homemade croutons and tomatoes: these are a few of my favorite things as well as ingredients to Greek Panzanella.

I added “cook something new every day for one month” to my 43 Things because I wanted to grocery shop with intention and really, really wanted to learn how to cook a few really great dishes. At the beginning of the summer, my roommates and I invested in a spice rack and having that available has increased the amount of advanced recipes I can try and has, without a doubt, enhanced the way I taste food.

To accomplish this goal I started with easy vegetable fajitas on the first weekend in July. From there, I moved on to more complicated recipes for Portobello mushroom burgers, guacamole and sweet potato fries all in one meal, all in the next week. The following Sunday, I followed a boozy recipe to make Grand Marnier French Toast (subbing the $27/bottle Grand Marnier for $13/bottle Patron Orange Liquer—which doubled as two ingredients, because the recipe calls for orange zest).

In this month I have easily become more confident and useful in the kitchen. Every recipe has gotten more advanced and has lead me to the greatest thing I’ve ever made and eaten.

Greek Panzanella.

When I chose this recipe, I knew that most of the items that it called for –salt, pepper, olive oil, Dijon mustard, oregano, garlic, onions, cherry tomatoes and feta – were already in my house, and everything that I needed to buy I could easily use in other recipes (or, in the case of the olives, in martinis).

It’s a summer salad, so besides toasting the French bread on the stovetop to make your homemade croutons (the best part), you can breeze through the recipe. When I made the Portobello mushroom burgers, I had to grill them and was dripping with sweat as I stoked a fire on the hottest day of the summer so this fact gets ten million thumbs up. You chop and combine all the cold ingredients, make a vinaigrette with GOOD (emphasis theirs, not mine) olive oil and red wine vinegar and set it aside. Then you cut up the French bread and let it toast in the olive oil on the stovetop.

When the bread is lightly toasted, you throw it in with the cold ingredients, toss in some feta (the recipe says use half a pound, but I just sprinkled some over the mix until it looked like enough to add in flavor), pour the vinaigrette over it, mix it up (they say to toss it lightly, but I sealed the Rubbermaid container and shook it – it’s a salad, not a baby: you don’t need to be gentle) and wait for thirty minutes so it can soak up all the great flavors.

Instead of cutting the bread to tiny crouton-sized, I made them a little bigger and I’m glad I did. The flavor really gets concentrated in the bread and since my croutons were so big, the whole dish was really filling.

If I were to only recommend one dish for you to cook from all the dishes from this past month, I would recommend the panzanella. Especially because all the vegetables are in season, so it’s an exceptionally fresh dish.

You can read the entire recipe over on Rebecca Crump’s food blog Ezra Pound Cake and here’s a grainy cell phone picture of the panzanella I made.

I’ve enjoyed finishing this goal so much I might just keep making new dishes into August.

Greek Panzanella