Sungold Tomatoes & Roasted Broccoli Panzanella

If I can be cliché for a moment, summer is fleeting so quickly. I can’t believe how in the few weeks since the summer solstice, how quickly we’re losing daylight. I mean yes, the sun is now rising and setting at more reasonable hours but the change is noticeable, especially when it’s a reminder that the rainy gloom of a Pacific Northwest autumn will be here all too soon.

But I’m not done with summer yet.

Late summer brings gorgeous tomatoes like these sungold cherry babies. So sweet and an irresistible color too!

These tomatoes ended up being a pretty great muse for me, inspiring a dinner that was about breaking some ruts in our routine.

See normally when we have tomatoes, we eat tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches and roasted broccoli– a crowd pleaser all around. That gave me the idea to put bread, cheese (fresh mozzarella pearls in this case,) and the halved cherry tomatoes together in a panzanella. After all, I love the combination of crusty bread that’s been fried in garlicky olive oil and topped with a juicy slice of summer tomatoes. Why not dice up that fried bread for a bread salad?

The salad would accompany bowls of roasted carrot soup and some roasted broccoli to get some green veg in, but at the last minute, I decided to add the broccoli directly to the panzanella to give the salad more crunch and substance.

And there you have it! With slivers of red onion and fresh basil and a dressing that I put together over the salad without mixing it first, this came together pretty quickly and was delicious. I think it was also a nice nod to the transition between late summer into fall: the tomatoes have that summer sweetness that no amount of greenhouse cultivation can achieve year round while the broccoli was hearty and nutty from roasting, reminiscent of comfort in colder weather meals. But what I liked best was how it felt freeing creatively for me, something that I don’t get to feel in my kitchen as much these days as work and kids keep me going to standbys that I know and can cook by rote.

And that inspiration also fired me up to change the look of my blog too. Hope you like it and this salad too!

Sungold Tomatoes and Roasted Broccoli Panzanella

 

Ingredients

1 medium head of broccoli, cut up into small florets

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

6 slices of country style bread or a crusty bread of your choice

2 large cloves of garlic

1 pint sungold cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons

8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a sheet pan, toss together the broccoli florets with a good drizzle (2-3 tbsp) olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 20-30 mins, tossing occasionally, or until florets are tender and lightly browned in places. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

While broccoli is roasting, pour enough olive oil into a large skillet so that the oil is about 1/4 inch deep. Smash and peel your garlic cloves and add that to the pan then turn the heat up to medium. Turn your garlic cloves occasionally until lightly browned on all sides. Remove garlic from the pan.

Add the slices of bread– I like to place a slice in one at a time, flipping the bread over before adding the next slice to make sure each side gets evenly coated with oil. Once all slices are in the pan, toast the bread in the oil, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the bread is light brown, about 5-7 mins. Flip the bread and repeat. Sprinkle the bread with salt and remove from pan to cool. When cool enough to touch, cut the bread into 1-inch cubes.

Place the halved cherry tomatoes, roasted broccoli, mozzarella pearls, slivered red onion, and the basil in a large bowl, tossing gently to combine. Drizzle about 4 tbsp of olive oil, the red vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper to taste then mix together again gently. Add 3/4 of the bread cubes and toss again then too with remaining bread and some more basil if you like. Serve immediately.

Makes 6-8 servings

CSA Count: 3 (sungold cherry tomatoes, red onion, fresh basil)

Kid rating (out of two empty plates): 1.25

Note for the working parent: It took me about 35 mins to put this all together, but if you want, you could roast the broccoli the night before, cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container in your fridge overnight.

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Wedge Salads

  

Wedge salads with homemade green goddess dressing and sliced almonds

CSA Count: 2 Two different kinds of little gem lettuces

Garden Count: 2 Parsley and tarragon

Ga

New Life; New Blog

I’ve been absent from this blog for so long. What started as a means of coping with multiple pregnancy losses, unemployment, and stress from studying for the bar exam has been forgotten in the chaos of full-time work and raising two small kids. I still love to cook, especially so when I can share that love with my daughters and with others. Sometimes I think about repurposing this blog to capture the ways I adapt or make my own recipes for meals that are kid friendly and can be broken down in steps so that meals can be put together after work and still get the kids to bed at a reasonable time. But then I worry about having the energy at night to keep up with it.

I think the trick is to not let the blog control my life. So here’s what I’m thinking: this blog will be a mix of short and longer posts: I’ll post pictures here from time to time of ways that we’re using our CSA box or garden harvests to help others find ideas for similar ingredients. When time and energy permits, I’ll post pieces that spell out recipes and tips. Here’s to indulging in a little narcissism again!

Pardon My Absence

But it’s been a crazy week and a half: I’ve found myself newly hired (at more than 8 months pregnant at that) and have been exhausted juggling learning my new job, numerous doctor appointments, and a more active than normal social life. But a couple of good things as far as this blog is concerned:

1. My next post will be my second contributor piece over at Second City Soiree next week; and

2. Our CSA will start delivering again, either week after next or the last week of June, depending on whether Washington weather decides to finally start acting like summer.

So in the meantime, to celebrate and explain all that is wonderful about Community Shared Agriculture and why I love writing about my CSA experiments on this blog, here’s a link to a story from NPR that sums it up more eloquently than I ever could, along with some recipes. Hope you like it as much as I do!

See you next week!

Fufu and Foam

Unchained Kitchen’s going to take a short break until after Nov. 4 while I’m on vacation in Peru. I know, life is tough! Come follow John’s and my adventures at our travel blog: Fufu and Foam Rubber (where for now, you can also see pictures and stories from our trips to Bangladesh, Nepal, and Ghana.)

See you in November!

The Year from Hell

That’s actually an understatement. This year has been one of terrible personal loss, and add to it, I’m a recent law school grad, unemployed and studying for the bar exam to obtain a license I’m not even sure I’ll use in my intended profession. The year is only half over and I’m afraid to see what else it has in store for me.

So why start a blog now? Because cooking has been my one of two saving graces throughout law school (the other being my husband and family– sorry that I’m relegating you to a paranthetical phrase!). It’s how I would unwind from a long day of thinking through complicated legal treatises. I’d find the mechanical motions of chopping vegetables to be a relief from cerebral exercise, the hiss of onions and garlic hitting the pan would coincide with the release of tension from my shoulders, and most importantly, I’d relax and have a good conversation with my spouse to catch up on each other’s day as we ate whatever I put out on the table. It’s also helped regulate the funk I’ve been in due to aforehinted at loss and since I’m reeling from a second, fresh one, I figure this will be a good distraction.

I think what makes cooking such an escape for me is that it gives me a chance to tap into my creative side. I notice that it’s not as much of a release for me during times of extreme stress and time constraints because I’m more recipe dependent. So like a runner hooked on endorphins (or consider this my meth), why not try to maximize my high when I need it most by trying to live recipe free? I’ll still religiously read food blogs and watch cooking shows for inspiration, but my goal is to know flavor combinations and techniques well enough that I can throw stuff together based on what’s on sale at the store, what’s in my fridge, and during the summer– what’s in my CSA basket and available in my husband’s vegetable garden.

Like any good law student, I have to make a disclaimer: I am not a professional cook, nor do I claim that what I put on my table is good enough to replicate at home. This is really more for my personal reference when I stumble upon something that I liked so I can repeat it. If you think it sounds tasty, you’re welcome to try it out and let me know your suggestions on how to improve.

Thanks for joining me!