Friday, July 16, 2010

When in Rome!

Each year, summertime brings us long days and lazy hot evenings, and if we're lucky enough to get away from our busy schedules, it also allows us to vacation and travel. I have found that no matter where I travel, if I want to find fresh and sustainable food I usually can. This proved again to be true when my daughter and I took off on our annual trip to California. Immediately upon arriving at our destination town (Hollister to be exact) my dear friend Lisa suggested that we go make a visit to her local farmer's market. The beauty of farmer's markets are that they can usually now be found in almost every city or town. If you're really into checking out the local food scene, this is a one-stop shop! Just as all cities are unique and different, so are their farmer's markets. Hollister was no exception! I was intrigued by the array of meats, nuts and produce. I loved that they had local honey and creameries represented as well. I could not help but brush off a little earth to eat a strawberry that had just been picked one hour before I consumed it (absolute heaven). I also really enjoyed the conversation I had with the local sausage purveyor, who was told me all about his fig/gorgonzola/walnut sausage and how he had to play around with recipe after recipe to find a way to keep the figs from breaking down the protein of the meat, which by the way, has to be my new favorite sausage.

Of course, some days I have a plan as to what I am on the hunt for at these markets, however, since I was on vacation I got to let my mind wander. I had remembered from back at the house before we left that Lisa had 2 baguettes that needed to be used. With that in mind, and some fresh produce at my disposal, Panzanella (Italian bread salad) would be a lovely choice. Luckily, I am blessed that Lisa will totally let me take over her kitchen while I am visiting. Lisa's husband George fired up his grill for our sausage sampler and I got to work on the salad. As much as I wanted to eat it as soon as I finished making it, I decided instead to take advantage of their lovely backyard by taking some photos. With that said, I got quite a treat when I started to take photos of the salad. Lisa lives in a beautiful little town that still has a ton of country charm. She has chickens, dogs and cats and they all roam peacefully together in her yard which makes for some curious photo ops.

Reflecting on that afternoon at the farmer's market gives me a sense of satisfaction, both to my stomach and my soul. Reinforced was the fact that I don't have to travel all the way to Rome to enjoy good people and a beautiful Roma tomato salad - I'm jus' sayin'!

Farmer's Market Panzanella

1 Day Old Baguette (cubed)
4 Large Tomato's (cut into large bite size chunks)
2 Small Zucchinis (cut into bite size chunks)
1 Medium Sweet Onion (sliced thin)
1 Large Bunch of Basil (thinly sliced - chiffonade)
3/4 Cup of Grated Good Parmesan Cheese
3 Cloves of Garlic (minced fine)
2 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to Taste

In a large bowl make the vinaigrette by whisking the garlic and vinegar together and slowly adding the oil until it is emulsified. Add the salt & pepper to taste. This will seem like a lot of dressing but the bread will soak it up. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss well. Cover with wrap and let sit in cool area for about an hour to absorb all the flavors. If it looks too dry when time to serve, dash a little more olive oil and one dash of vinegar on top. This is a very hearty and delicious salad to serve anytime of the year, but especially good in the summer when the tomatoes are at their peak. You can also add cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese to this to bring in more texture.