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Monday, July 4, 2011

All Fired Up

*  Note:  Before we start, I just want to remind you to take a look at all the new items brought to the picnic since I last updated.  Take a look at The Picnic Game.

There are three big summer holidays:  Memorial Day, July the Fourth, and Labor Day.  Beginning, middle, and end of summer.  The funny thing about July 4th is that instead of it feeling like early July to me, it always feels like the long, lazy days of summer are winding down.  Why is that?  It's actually closer to the beginning than the end but it always feels like the clocking is ticking to me.  Hum...

Nonetheless, I love July 4th.  What's not to love?  Everyone is happy and tanned and enjoying themselves. The food is simple and delicious, and the party atmosphere is everywhere.  As I said.  What's not to love?

This is Kate's first summer at home in a long time and even she's in the spirit.  We are going to the Pirates game today and then to our club for dinner and fireworks.  Kate is decked out in patriotic red, white, and blue.  And flip flops, the official teenage shoe of summer.

Since I'm not doing a big barbecue at our house on the actual holiday, I decided to make a really nice summertime dinner last night.  Ted fired up the grill and cooked some steaks.  I was in charge of sides and dessert.  He did his job and I did mine.

This classic panzanella salad is the perfect accompaniment to grilled foods.  Panzanella is a great salad to make if you're going to a summer potluck.  Or it a great salad to make if you feel like a little something special yourself.  Either way, it'll put you in a summertime mood.

Recipe:  Panzanella Salad


3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
2 - 3 anchovy fillets, diced

For the vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

2 - 3 anchovy fillets, diced

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, u

sing a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and anchovies until you have a smooth paste. Place in a large bowl.  Whisk the remaining ingredients into the anchovy and garlic paste.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, kalamata olives, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

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