Time is a big deal to me. I make lists after my workout and before my first job at 7:00 AM. Handwritten lists, so I can cross each thing off. I parcel my time to the hour and the minute which is why I have to schedule phone dates with friends, writing practice, and of course the occasional nap. I schedule my workout – then cross if off right away. There’s my work for different clients, blogging, and the occasional dinner party to cook for. I add reading and basketball when I can fit them in. It’s a lot, but at the end of the day, I’ve done things I love.
The parceling of minutes makes me value time. Still, I can be a tad greedy. Yesterday I prayed for more hours in the day. I just wanted a few more here and there, but clearly God has other plans.
Until I read Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients, I didn’t think about cooking with time. No, I do not mean thyme, though it is delicious. I am talking about the precious thing you cannot buy or even pray for. I love shows like Top Chef, Chopped, and Iron Kitchen. They are fun and exciting. The Chefs are amazing and the dishes they develop are out of this world. Yet, I can’t help imagining how much better the food would be with a little more time.
I cheated time for dinner the other night. Perhaps I have some Iron Chef envy. In the early afternoon, I prepped everything for dinner. I whipped through the chopping and dicing. I mixed up the salad dressing, cubed the bread, and measured out the rice. My best cheater move was throwing all the vegetables into the dressing to marinate. I may not have gotten more hours in my day, but I turned up the volume on my dinner without spending hours doing it.
By the time I was ready to cook, the vegetables had blended together releasing their juices and mixing with the vinaigrette. Having tossed them gently, they retained most of their original texture making each bite fresh. A touch of Dijon mustard gave an added sharpness to the dish.
I served my Panzanella Salad with Artichoke Risotto and Two Day Marinated Lemon Garlic Chicken. Cooking for 40 never seemed so easy.
Panzanella Salad inspired by Jujus
The first time I had Panzanella was with Jujus. She was determined to use the old bread we had. Thank goodness for her determination. This is a great way to save stale bread. One of the best times to buy bread is late at night when grocery stores often put their fresh bread on sale. I prefer red or yellow peppers in this salad, but if green are the least expensive, they will be just fine.
1 tsp garlic, finely minced
2 TBS Dijon mustard
3 TBS white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cucumber (American or English), unpeeled, and sliced ½ inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
½ red onion, finely chopped
½ cup packed basil, coarsely chopped
3 TBS olive oil
1 small loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp salt
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and basil. Mix gently to coat all of the vegetables. Cover and let stand at least 30 minutes before serving.
Note: I like to let it marinate for 4-5 hours which is perfect when you’re serving a lot of people. You get another step out of the way. Just put the covered bowl in the refrigerator and pull it out 30 minutes to an hour before serving. This would also be a good time to toss the salad again.
Toss bread, 3 TBS olive oil, and 1 tsp salt together. Heat a large fry pan over medium heat and add the bread cubes. Toss frequently until they have browned. Add bread to vegetable mixture and toss to incorporate. Serve to hungry people.
Note: The vegetables will last for a day or two in the fridge. If you aren’t going to eat all of the salad, separate out half of the vegetables and half of the bread to combine later. This makes a great lunch, and no one will complain about a repeat dinner appearance.