There are moments in a young woman's life that shine much brighter than the typical day-to-day happenings. You know the usual suspects: First day of college, buying your first car, first Herpes outbreak...you get the picture. I find that my shining moments tend to fall more in the "Crack-Ass Weird" category. For example, one of the best days of this past year was when my mother gave me an immersion blender. I was so excited, I blended foods that should never be blended. Like sandwiches. And pasta dishes. And maybe even pancakes with syrup. I get slap happy sometimes.
Of course, the immersion blender moment is just a small example. Deeper retrospection unveils what I consider to be one of the best days of my entire life: The day I first ate an Heirloom Tomato. Sure, I'd known "different colored" tomatoes existed. I didn't sit through the movie Fried Green Tomatoes while my mother bawled like a baby and walk away with nothing but emotional damage. But I didn't actually get to experience the wonders of the heritage, vine ripened beauties until years later. I remember it like it was just yesterday...
It was a breezy, late summer morning at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The air smelled of sea breeze, dark roast coffee and vagrant's urine. I had just moved to Los Angeles about a year prior, was dirt poor, and actively finding ways of scamming free [non-crap-filled] food. I felt like the deli case employees at Whole Foods were catching on to my "ask for 10 samples and not actually buy anything" tactic, so I decided to try a new approach. Farmers Market freebies. The perfect light, nutritional breakfast. I did my research, and found myself strolling the 3rd Street Promenade while stuffing my face with pluots, French bread and oranges. I was almost at the end of the walkway when I spotted it: A double tent hovering above tables filled with tomatoes...the skins of which spanned end to end of the color spectrum. Did I mention there were free sample trays of each variety? Maybe I shouldn't, because then the farmers might hunt me down and ask me why I ate at least 2 pounds of their advertising.
I've had a torrid love affair with Heirloom Tomatoes ever since. There's not a single cultivar that doesn't do the tango on my taste buds. I eat them like apples, dress them up with a little vinegar, oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, I make sauces with them. I can't get enough. I easily spend at least $200 during Heirloom season, yet firmly believe that cable television is an unjustifiable expense. Well, I warned you I was Crack-Ass Weird.
Get 'em while they last, kids.
That's his "I'm about to eat your undies the second you avert your eyes" face. I love him, and he brings a little testosterone to this estrogen-filled apartment.
For the Panzanella...
- 1 lb of Day-Old Tuscan Bread
- 3 mixed Heirloom Tomatoes, largely diced
- 1 large Cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1 Red Onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 batch of Marsala-Roasted Chickpeas
- About 1/3 cup of Olive Oil
- 2 TBSP Sherry Vinegar
- 2 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
- 3 cloves Black Garlic, minced
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- Handful of Fresh Basil Leaves, Chiffonade (cut into thin ribbons)
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 1 can Chickpeas, drained well
- 2 1/2 tsp Olive Oil
- 2 tsp Marsala Wine
- 1 tsp Tamari
- 1 1/2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp Herb de Provence
- 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
- Pinch of Vegan Cane Sugar
First, make the roasted chickpeas.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place the drained chickpeas in a 9 x 9 casserole dish.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the chickpeas. Toss well to coat the chickpeas.
Roast the chickpeas in the oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring twice during the roasting process. Set aside to cool.
Next, take the day-old bread and lightly moisten it with running water from your faucet. It should be slightly moistened the whole way through. If it's too wet, squeeze out the excess liquid.
Use your hands to tear the moistened bread into small pieces, then set in a large bowl while you prep the rest of your veggies.
Once the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, garlic and basil are prepped and the chickpeas are cool, add them all to the large bowl with the torn bread and toss to combine.
Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar, then pour over top of the salad. Add salt and pepper, then toss well to combine. Taste for salt and pepper, then serve immediately.
Serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour before serving.