Bread. It is the simple food in life. Alone and hot out of the oven, it can speak volumes about the hands that prepared it. Standing at the cutting board, serrated knife in hand, the anticipation of cutting through the golden crust–it’s just foreplay for delicious softened butter to be swathed across with reckless abandon. Ah, yes…it’s a problem!

I have been doing some bread research for a client that now has my freezer teeming with sourdough baguettes, ciabatta and the like. I can’t throw them out! That would be wasteful. So after contributing to neighbors, which resulted in an impromptu pte and cheese tasting, I had to figure out what to do with it all.

After a little memory recall and some research, I discovered some recipes where bread is the star of the dish. One of my favorites is panzanella, or bread salad. It uses grilled or toasted bread and fresh marinated vegetables; you can use whatever vegetables you like. This would be awesome as a Greek panzanella with cucumbers, feta and Kalamata olives.

Bread. Is it the bane of my waistline, a simple pleasure or a great palette to build on and share with friends? Maybe all!

Don’t forget about the fifth annual Whole Foods Market New Taste of the Upper West Side, happening on Columbus Avenue and 77th Street this Friday and Saturday night. For more information, visit www.newtasteuws.com or call (212) 721-5048.

Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!

Follow me on Twitter @SCHOPgirl, join the family on Facebook by searching “SCHOP” and please subscribe to my blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com for more recipes, tips and food musings.

Questions at dinnertime? Chat with me on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday through Friday, 6-8 p.m.

Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! which is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Email kysha@iSCHOP.com.

Panzanella

  • 1 1/2 cups small to medium fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 small Fresno chile or red jalapeno, seeded, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, assorted colors and sizes
  • 1 12-ounce loaf rustic or sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 garlic clove, halved

Directions:

  1. Puree 3/4 cup basil leaves and 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil in a blender until smooth and only tiny flecks of basil remain. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Strain mixture into bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much oil as possible; discard solids in strainer.
  2. Add shallot, chile, lemon zest and lemon juice to basil oil; whisk to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature and rewhisk before using.
  3. Slice tomatoes into assorted wedges, rounds and cubes; add to bowl with dressing. Toss to coat and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat grill or broiler. Brush bread with remaining 1/3 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toast bread until charred in spots, about 2 minutes per side. Rub grilled bread with cut sides of garlic clove. Tear bread into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
  5. Add bread and remaining 3/4 cup basil leaves to bowl with tomato mixture; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.