On his second plate, in between hoards of buffalo wings, hot dogs, and hamburgers (at which I turned my head and averted my eyes) my father turned to me and said, “Why does this have so much bread in it?”
We’d already gone over the etymology of the word “panzanella”. Twice.
Latin. Pan = pane = bread. Bread salad. A traditional Florentine dish made to use up any stale crusty bread before it went to waste.
Basically a clean-out-the-fridge meal from a time before there were fridges.
“You took Italian in college, dad!” I shrieked. “Why is this so incomprehensible?”
“It’s from Florence?” he asked, a frown encasing his face, completely oblivious to my line of questioning.
“Bastardo,” he muttered under his breath.
I sighed. Being almost entirely Sicilian, my parents have a hard time understanding anything that’s Northern Italian.
Never mind that they were born in the US. Speak only enough Italian to barely get by (by which I mean, they know how to curse and ask for cheese). And live off of barbecue sauce and hot dogs. (Something that true Sicilians would surely disapprove of.)
The prejudices have somehow traversed the Atlantic Ocean, as well as two completely Americanized generations, and have gotten implanted into my parents’ heads along with other ridiculous notions. (Such as the fact that chicken really and truly is a meat. My mother still refuses to believe it. And so while my father was busy cursing out an entire half of his precious homeland, she spent the entire afternoon muttering to herself, “No, no. That can’t be right.”)
But I’m working on breaking them down. We started with risotto, which they now love with unbridled passion. Polenta is a work in progress. And now, considering the fact that they ate multiple helpings of the panzanella even though it had beans and vegetables (the HORROR)…I’m thinking they’ve been lured over to the dark side. Bread excess notwithstanding.
This week at Eat.Live.Be. we are talking about what makes us happy.
After much reflection on this subject, I’ve realized that at age 24, I’ve turned into an Italian grandmother. I live to feed.
To dig my fingers into pastry dough. Or boil up a pot of chickpeas.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing how happy my food can make other people. Especially when that food is also nourishing in a deliciously healthy kind of way. It’s rare that I can get my family to eat a whole bowl full of vitamins and minerals. But when I can. The feeling that accompanies it is priceless.
So what makes you happy? Leave a message in the comments and be sure to check out these other Eat.Live.Be-ers!
- Sarah Caron from Sarah’s Cucina Bella
- Cate from Sweetnicks
- Chris Arpante – Melecotte
- Patsy – Family, Friends and Food
- Claire – Cooking is Medicine
- Sarah Rogers – Sarah’s Sweet Creations
- Rivki from Healthy Eating for Ordinary People
- Claudia from Journey of an Italian Cook
- New Jersey Epicurean
This panzanella was born of a need to create a dish that could double as a main dish for me and a side dish for my family on Father’s Day. While most bread salads are just mixtures of bread and tomatoes, I bulked this up with asparagus, leeks, beans, lettuce, and tomatoes and seasoned it with my favorite flavor of summer – pesto. In the end, the bread cubes soaked in the glorious pesto and tomato juices, becoming deliciously soft bites of heaven with the veggies melting into that flavor burst. The perfect salad for father’s day or any other spring/summer afternoon in the sun.
Spring Pesto Panzanella
Serves 8, an Eats Well With Others Original
1 loaf ciabatta bread (about 11 oz)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 tbsp parmesan cheese
1 lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch slices
6 leeks, green parts removed, thinly sliced
2 cups white beans or flageolets
5 tomatoes, chopped (I used kumato tomatoes)
1 (8 oz) jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 head butter lettuce (from my CSA!), leaves shredded
1/3 cup pesto
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400. Cut the ciabatta into cubes (or tear it into small pieces). In a large bowl, mix it with the 1/4 cup olive oil, minced garlic, and parmesan cheese. Place it on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool. Leave the oven on.
2. Spread the asparagus and leeks on a second baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until asparagus and leeks are starting to brown. Set aside to cool.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the bread cubes, asparagus, leeks, white beans, tomatoes, lettuce and sun-dried tomatoes. Mix in the pesto and balsamic vinegar so that everything is evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste.