Archive for September, 2006

Panzanella, of sorts

I wasn’t really trying to make a panzanella when I created this dish–I just wanted a way to enjoy the fabulous tomatoes I got at the farmers’ market and use up some very crusty (read: almost stale) bread. Apparently, a traditional panzanella would also include onions and probably cucumber, as well as vinegar. Vinegar would be a nice addition to my salad, but frankly, that would take away from the simplicity of enjoying the fresh tomatoes. These tomatoes were so good, I almost just ate them like apples. And I think that is key: this recipe would not work with the mealy tomatoes in grocery stores in February. Relish this when tomatoes are at their peak and you want any excuse to indulge in their juicy goodness. Mmm…it’s making my mouth water…


Cooking time: 25 minutes, plus some time for letting the bread soak up the juices

Servings: 1 main course serving, or 3-4 sides


  • 3 ripe tomatoes (I used two red, one yellow)
  • thick, crusty bread on its way to being stale (don’t use regular sandwich bread for this)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • fresh basil leaves
  • salt
  • pepper
  • freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
  1. Slice/saw the bread into about 1/2 inch cubes. Use anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 cups. Toss these into whatever bowl you are going to eat out of.
  2. Chop the tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces. Add tomatoes and their juice on the cutting board to the bowl of bread. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes.
  3. Sprinkle with salt. I measured out 1/8 tsp and used almost all of it…and I am not a huge salt person.* Toss the mixture. Let stand anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. The longer it stands, the more juices the bread will absorb…but the longer you have to wait to enjoy the tomato goodness!
  4. Add pepper, basil and cheese before serving.

* Salt brings out sweetness, so it is exceptional with tomatoes, even for someone like myself who normally cooks with little to no salt. Additionally, the salt helps draw the juices out of the tomatoes so the bread has more to soak up. But don’t go overboard with the salt, or you’ll cover up the flavor of the tomatoes. Plus, it’s not good for you. 🙂


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Couscous with Tomatoes and Chick Peas

I first created this dish with packaged goods while not in my own kitchen. For that quick and easy, but pricier version of this recipe, see the bottom of the post.

Couscous with Tomatoes and Chick Peas

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Servings: about 3


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can chick peas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetable broth mix (or replace the water and mix with a cup of veggie broth)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes*
  • 1 cup couscous
  • about 1 cup spinach or arugula
  • optional: a few sprigs of fresh basil
  • optional: fresh Parmesan Reggiano
  1. Place pine nuts on a toaster oven pan and toast (425) until they start to turn light brown, about 5 minutes. While pine nuts are toasting, dice the tomatoes, saving the juices.
  2. Combine the water, chick peas and spices (veggie broth mix through cayenne pepper) in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  3. Add tomatoes and their juices and pine nuts to saucepan. If necessary, wait a moment for the liquid to return to a boil.
  4. Stir in couscous and cover the pan. Remove from heat and let sit five to six minutes. While the couscous is sitting, tear the greens into pieces.
  5. If serving all of the dish immediately, stir the greens into the saucepan before serving. If just eating one serving, stir part of the greens into your serving and save the rest for when eating the remaining portions. The heat from the dish will slightly wilt the greens. If they are already mixed in, they will turn gross in the microwave when reheating. Top with cheese if desired.

* You can use one (glass) jar of the Del Monte “fresh” tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic instead. Drain the juice from the jar into a measuring cup and use that instead of water in the recipe. Reduce the oregano and garlic powder to 1/4 tsp and omit dried basil. DO NOT use a regular can of diced tomatoes. They are too salty and have too much water, so the couscous will not only be salty, but also mushy.

Faster, easier, more expensive version:

All you need is one package of pine nut-flavored couscous, a can of chick peas, 1/4 tsp dried oregano and a jar of tomatoes with basil, oregano and garlic (see * above–note, NOT CANNED). Rinse and drain the chick peas. Follow the package directions, adding the chick peas with the water and seasoning packet. Add the tomatoes and oregano right before the couscous. Pick up with step 4.

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