Sunday, April 20, 2008

Brunch Panzanella

I’ve been wanting to make panzanella for a really long time. But panzanella is usually made with tomatoes, and this posed a bit of a problem for me. I happen to live with someone who refuses to eat fresh tomatoes. A freak of nature, if you will. And I know I could make the panzanella just for myself, but I never bothered. If there’s something that I like and Adam doesn’t, it usually doesn’t get made. This is mostly just laziness on my part. If I’m going to make something, I want it to be something we’ll both enjoy. And if I’m cooking for myself alone, I’m not making panzanella. I’m making Hot Pockets or some other culinary no-no that I probably shouldn’t be admitting publicly. Like I said, I’m lazy.

So when I saw a recipe for Brunch Panzanella that did not include tomatoes, I jumped all over it. But the merits of this dish go far beyond a simple omission of tomatoes. This panzanella has all sorts of goodies, such as strawberries, blueberries, raisins, and nuts.

I made a few changes to the recipe, but not many. I used walnuts instead of almonds, because that’s what I had, and amaretto instead of brandy, because that’s my favorite. I topped mine with whipped cream, because I’m like that, but you could also top it with yogurt to make it more healthy and breakfasty. I also found that the proportions for the recipe were a bit off (I ended up with less brown butter syrup than the recipe said I should have), so I’ve cleaned it up a bit and am including the modified version below. You can find the original here.

This recipe is full of possibilities. I’m already thinking of what other combinations of fruits, nuts, and liqueurs might be good. Yum!

This recipe is, as the name suggests, intended for brunch, but I also think it would make a great light supper on a warm night.

Brunch Panzanella
adapted from Brunch Panzanella

3 servings

2 cups macerated strawberries, recipe follows
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2-pound Italian country-style loaf of bread

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon amaretto
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

4-5 oz. blueberries, washed
1/4 cup lightly packed torn mint leaves
1 cup heavy cream, lightly whipped (or vanilla yogurt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare macerated strawberries, and refrigerate until ready for use.

Toast walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat, about 10 minutes or until fragrant, and reserve until ready for use.

Place the raisins in a small bowl. Cover with hot water. Allow the raisins to plump for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve until ready for use.

Cube bread into approximately 1/2-inch chunks. You should have about 4 cups. Reserve until ready for use.

Make the brown butter syrup. Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over high heat, and cook until it browns. Add the bay leaf and stand back (it might pop). Lower the heat to medium and add the sugar to the pan and stir. When the sugar has melted, add the amaretto and stand back (it might flame). Add the lemon juice. Cook for 15 seconds, then add the orange juice and salt. Stir and cook until the liquid has reduced and reached a syrupy consistency. You should have about 1/2 cup. Remove the bay leaf.

Place the cubed bread in a large bowl and toss with half of the brown butter syrup. Spread the bread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and crispy on the outside and still chewy inside, 15 to 20 minutes, turning half-way through for even coloring.

When done, return bread to bowl and add remaining brown butter syrup, walnuts, raisins, blueberries, and mint. Toss well. To serve, spoon some strawberries into a bowl. Spoon some panzanella beside the strawberries. Spoon some whipped cream (or vanilla yogurt) over the strawberries. Garnish with fresh mint.

Macerated Strawberries

1 pound strawberries, washed and halved
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well until sugar is distributed and strawberries are evenly coated.


Elle said...

You have no idea how much I love this idea! I mean, we love tomatoes, so we eat those regularly, but this puts a whole new spin on it! I can see it now, sunny morning, slight cool breeze, and enjoying this out on the deck. Love it!

Vicarious Foodie said...

Elle: If I had a deck I'd be eating this on mine, too. With mimosas!

RecipeGirl said...

No tomatoes? Yes, that's an oddity for sure. That would drive me nuts. I think I probably rarely cook a meal that doesn't have fresh tomatoes in it!

This really sounds like a great, different brunch item!

Patsyk said...

what a pretty dish! looks totally yummy!

Peter M said...

Great dessert, healthy no doubt!

Kevin said...

A fruit panzanella is a great idea! It looks really good.

Noble Pig said...

What a great idea. I would have never thought, I mean not at all. How great.

And I'm sorry about your tomatoless life!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) said...

What a explosion of flavors you have here. Fantastic!!!!

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Elle said...

Hey there! I tagged you for a six word memoir--you can see the rules on my blog, and you can choose to play or not, up to you. :) Cheers!

Deborah said...

As much as I love tomatoes, I think I would choose this panzanella! Looks delicious!

Better Than Paula said...

This looks so good and fresh. I love this time of year! I will have to try it.