Bread and bounty: Fresh from the summer garden

ALL HAIL ZUCCHINI!

Nah, not really. Like most of the rest of you gardeners out there, I’ve got a surfeit of zucchini. And that sneaky Zucchini Fairy is very active at this time of the year, leaving torpedo-sized zucchinis in the lunchroom at work, on my doorstep, atop my mailbox… stop with the zucchini already! The horn of plenty is now officially the Horn of Too Much. But keep reading—this post isn’t about zucchini.

So forget the zucchini. How about those tomatoes? Everyone I know has had issues with a small tomato crop this year (lots of flowers, less fruit; we see a lack of bees, unfortunately). And I have far fewer than usual. But those that I have (Pssst! Sweet Millions, a delicious cherry tomato) are unbelievably tasty. I pick a single cherry tomato each time I walk through the yard, taking a moment to savor its sun-warmed goodness.

Basil, peppers, cukes, everything is busting out at once. If you have a garden, it runneth over. If you don’t, find a farmer’s market. Eating local is a good thing, when you can do it: it supports your neighbors, and you’re assured of ultra-fresh veggies and fruit. Up here in northern New England, eating local in February means potatoes and squash and maybe some apples. But right now—umm-UMM, love that butter-and-sugar sweet corn!

The following three recipes combine some of our favorite artisan breads with bounty from the garden. Bread is a tasty vehicle here: it’s a base for bruschetta toppings; and in panzanella and fattoush, it soaks up tomato juice and olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar. So, with all of those garden-fresh goodies out there—what are we waiting for?!

FATTOUSH (scroll down for Panzanella and Bruschetta)

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Let’s start with Fattoush. First, pita bread: homemade is best, because it’s thicker and more substantial and usually tastier than store-bought. But go with store-bought if you like.

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Cut the pita into wedges. Don’t open it into a pocket and separate; just cut the whole thing. If you want the salad to hold longer, oven-toast the wedges till crisp, as shown here. If you plan on making the salad, and then adding the pita just before serving, there’s no need to toast it; it’ll stay nice and chewy for at least 30 minutes, plenty of time to serve.

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Gather your salad ingredients: lettuce, scallions, cukes, tomatoes, parsley and mint, lemon and olive oil.

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If the cucumber is waxed (hopefully not, if you’ve bought it fresh at a farmers’ market), peel it. Cut it in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds, if desired.

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Chop the veggies; dress with the oil and lemon juice; toss with the herbs. You can make the salad ahead up to this point, if you like. How long will it keep? Well, you know salads, the fresher the better. But covered and chilled, it should stay good and crisp for a few hours anyway.

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Just before serving, toss with the pita wedges. Serve immediately, if the wedges are untoasted. You can wait up to about 45 minutes, if you’ve toasted the bread first.

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VERY refreshing. Lemon and mint play nicely with the veggies and bread.

Panzanella (scroll down for Bruschetta)

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Next, let’s make Panzanella. As the name indicates, it’s an Italian salad, one dating back to at least the 1500s. You’ll see the ingredients reflect its provenance, too. Panzanella is a great way to use up leftover bread and August’s super-abundance of fresh garden vegetables.

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I’m starting out with scali bread here. If you don’t like the idea of sesame seeds in your salad, simply make scali without the seeds. Or use a different bread, such as the Tuscan bread you’ll find with the panzanella recipe on our recipe site.

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Drizzle or spray cubes of bread with olive oil, and oven-toast till crisp and golden brown.

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Your veggies—pretty straightforward.

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Just as with fattoush, it’s good to peel the cucumber (if it’s waxed), and seed it.

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Removing excess juice and seeds from the tomatoes is a good idea, too. Simply cut around the equator…

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…and gently squeeze to remove most of the seeds.

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Next, the dressing. Red wine vinegar, olive oil, capers, garlic, and… anchovies? Don’t tell me you don’t like anchovies?! Can you make this dressing without them? Yes, of course you can. But once they’re made into dressing and tossed with veggies and bread, they really do lose a lot of their fishiness, lending instead a delightful, pretty much unidentifiable savoriness.

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A quick whirl in the blender, and look: beautifully creamy dressing.

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Chop the cukes and tomatoes; tear the lettuce; slice the onions; add the bread and dressing. Garnish individual servings with hard-boiled egg wedges, and enjoy.

Bruschetta 

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Now bruschetta, which is simply oven-toasted slices of French or Italian bread spread or layered with your choice of savory toppings. Here we’ve used goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto; garlicky hummus garnished with parsley; and slices of mozzarella topped with tomato salad.

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And the bread: Use baguettes, or another light-textured country-style artisan loaf.

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You can make the bread part of bruschetta long and skinny (from a diagonally sliced baguette, oval ciabatta, or other country loaf); big and round, from a typical Italian loaf; small and round, from a baguette; or something in between, as we did by cutting these ciabatta slices in half crosswise, to make smaller bruschetta.

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This wonderful, non-traditional hummus couldn’t be simpler or more delicious. It includes just five ingredients: garbanzos (chickpeas), garlic, olive oil, salt, and cumin.

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First, process a 15-ounce can of drained chickpeas (garbanzos) with 3/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and as many peeled garlic cloves as you like. I usually like about six big cloves for this amount of beans; but I REALLY like garlic. You might want to tone it down some.

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Process until the beans are ground. With the machine going, drizzle in oil…

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…until the hummus is as thick/thin as you like. To cut back on the fat content, substitute some of the drained-off bean water for some of the oil. Process until VERY smooth. Garnish with parsley.

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Now for the rest of the toppings: garlic and basil for pesto; and tomatoes for tomato salad. I bought some parsley, too, but ended up using it only as a garnish for the hummus. Be aware, though, that you can make a delicious (and usually less expensive) pesto using Italian flat-leaf parsley instead of basil.

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Let’s make pesto first. We’ll start with about 4 to 5 cups (1 large bunch) of fresh basil leaves, lightly packed.

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And 4 ounces of fresh Parmesan cheese. Cut it into chunks, to avoid stressing your food processor.

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Process the cheese until it’s mealy, but not totally ground.

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Add the basil, garlic, walnuts, and salt. I know, pesto calls for pine nuts—but who can afford them? Walnuts are a perfectly acceptable stand-in.

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Process until everything is ground…

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…then drizzle in olive oil, with the motor going, till the pesto is as smooth and thick/thin as you like.

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WOW! There’s nothing like the brilliant green of fresh pesto.

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To help preserve that color, which can be very fleeting, lay a piece of plastic wrap right on the surface of the pesto. The top will discolor a bit, but underneath it’ll still be nice and green.

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Last topping: tomato salad, a simple mixture of tomatoes, dried herbs, salt, sugar, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Start with a pound of tomatoes. Cut them in 1/2” cubes, more or less; cut in half, then cut each half crosswise in half again.

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Slice in 1/2” slices.

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Then chop into cubes.

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Place the cubed tomatoes in a strainer, and let them drain a bit while you round up the rest of your ingredients.

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This is a seat-of-the-pants recipe, something my grandma-in-law made but never wrote down. I usually make it by tasting, but here’s a start: For each pound of diced tomatoes (about 2 1/4 cups), stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, a heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt, a sprinkle of coarsely ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil or mixed dried herbs. Let marinate for several hours at room temperature before serving.

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At last! You’ve got all the toppings ready, and it’s time to put together your bruschetta. Use your imagination; pair different cheeses and vegetables and spreads to come up with your own favorite combinations. My toppings here are (l to r) goat cheese topped with sun-dried tomato and pesto; hummus garnished with fresh parsley; and sliced mozzarella topped with tomato salad.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Fattoush.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Panzanella.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Simple Hummus.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Pesto.

Buy vs. Bake

Fattoush

Buy: Fattoush Restaurant, Chicago: Small order fattoush (“the King of Salads”), $6.25

Make at home: Fattoush
Salad course serving, $1.20
Entrée serving, $1.92

Panzanella

Buy: Panzanella Ristorante, Los Angeles: Panzanella (bread salad with tomato, cucumber, basil, onion, and extra-virgin olive oil), $12.95

Buy: Panzanella, Carrboro, N.C.: Panzanella Salad, with marinated tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, balsamic vinaigrette and artisanal bread, $6.00

Make at home: Panzanella salad, made with homemade toasted croutons, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet red onion, bell pepper, and romaine lettuce, tossed with an anchovy/caper/olive oil dressing. First course serving, 99¢
Entrée serving, $1.98

Bruschetta

Buy: Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, Bloomington, Ill., lunch menu: Bruschetta Classico, oven-toasted Italian bread topped with plum tomatoes, sweet basil, garlic, fresh mozzarella and a touch of balsamic vinegar, $6.99

Make at home: Bruschetta with fresh tomato salad and fresh mozzarella, two 5” pieces, $1.68

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Jeanne

    If you are wanting to get rid of some of your zucchini, I have a very good recipe for zucchini marmalade. It makes nice gifts for Christmas. (Never too soon to start thinking of Christmas.)

    Reply
  2. breadchick

    Darn… and I was going to ship you and Halley some of my bumper crop :-( I have had a huge crop of tomatoes in CT this year so I can send some of those with the zukes if you want?!

    I’m definitely making some of these wonderful goodies this weekend to go with the pita bread I just made.

    No… no… it’s the invasion of the Killer Zucchinis! Believe it or not, there was a zucchini on my dining room table when I got home tonight. I don’t know which of my friends walked into the house and put it there – no one will fess up, I’m sure… PJH

    Reply
  3. Lorraine

    Here is Florida we have all varieties of zucchini right now. I found little round yellow and green zucchini that are nice and sweet. I made zucchini pancakes with scallion. Delicious and easy. Another seat of your pants recipe; zucchini, scallions, flour, eggs, baking soda, salt, pepper, pinch allspice. Yum.

    Reply
  4. cjsmama

    A tip I learned this summer for keeping the top of your pesto from discoloring — pour just a thin layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto once it is in the bowl before covering. Works great!

    Reply
  5. Abigail

    Thank you so much. You saved the week-end for us. It is over 100 again. The usual hot hot all summer long weather. I was out of ideas (how much gazpacho and cucumber sou0p can one family eat). Your menu sets us up for the entire week-end.

    King Arthur to the rescue again. I am so happy I found your site. I am also delighted with the shopping for your flour, ingreds. and equipment.

    Your loyal, albeit new, fan,
    Abigail in Northern Calif.

    Reply
  6. Arline Fleming

    Fattoosh needs fresh garlic and a teaspoon of allspice to really have the unusual flavor that makes it distinctive.

    Wow, allspice – I’ll have to try that next time, thanks, Arline. And of course garlic is always a plus – PJH

    Reply
  7. maryhelen

    I own a small tearoom/cafe in Texas…and make homemade bread daily and of course you will always have some left…Yes..I have bread crumbs, bread pudding, and I am always looking for things to do with my wonderful homemade bread…Thank you and I will try to make the adjustments with soft white and wheat bread with this recipe…mhranchlady in Texas

    Reply
  8. elizabeth mooney

    Dear King Arthur, Your web-site is absolutely fantastic now. It is so easy to find & it explain with photos with explanation. Well done, I got to congratulate you all, Thank you, elizabeth

    Thanks for connecting, Elizabeth – PJH

    Reply
  9. Terri

    Great ideas! Thanks. I really enjoy the blog. I was even more surprised to see the “Buy” comparison for the Bruschetta being made to a local Italian restaurant in my mid-sized, central Illinois hometown! Small world.

    Terri

    Indeed, Terri small world – I went online and typed in “Bruschetta menu” and grabbed the first reasonable one I could find… The Internet certainly increases our connections to one another, wherever we are, doesn’t it? – PJH

    Reply
  10. Margy

    I can relate to the surfeit of zucchini–every time I think I’ve picked the last one, I find another one of the little green blimps hiding out under the leaves. My sister and I take the really big ones that are a little too large for the table, split them, scoop out the seeds, and shred the flesh, then freeze it in 1-2 cup freezer bags. At holiday time, we thaw them, squeeze out excess liquid, and make zucchini bread as holiday gifts. A friend gives us sweet corn; this week we blanched, cut off the cob and froze 12 quarts of corn. Yummy at Thanksgiving! Also, between our garden and the farmer’s market, made and froze 10 quarts of tomato sauce. The cherry tomatoes never make it to the house–I eat them in the backyard warm from the vine. The tomatoes our local gardens are a little slow this year, but we hopefully expect a bumper crop in September (it often stays hot in Maryland through the beginning of October).

    Reply

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