Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bread + Tomatoes = Panzanella


A good bakery is a welcome addition to any community; a great one is a gift. That is what Alice Bakery in downtown North Wales has become since opening its doors a year and a half ago. Everything is made from scratch every morning. If you are going to indulge in your daily carbs, this is the way to do it.
Owner Dennis Darr, who named his bakery after his grandmother (it’s pronounced “a-lease”), graduated from the French Pastry School in Chicago. When looking around at schools, the French Culinary Academy in New York City told him that Chicago's French Pastry School was ranked number one in the nation. After a trip to see the school, there was no need for further decisions.
The business has grown steadily. Dennis and his crew make and sell breakfast pastries, desserts, custom cakes, handmade chocolates (when the weather cooperates) and of course, bread. They also serve  lunch.

Thinking of Alice's breads gets me thinking of panzanella, the Italian bread and tomato salad.  Tomatoes are abundant right now, especially at farmers markets and local roadside stands. Use heirlooms, small cherry tomatoes, whatever is best. Cut some leftover bread (like the kind at Alice) into cubes, mix it with the tomatoes and a vinaigrette and you have panzanella. I should point out that our youngest daughter doesn't like raw tomatoes, only cooked ones, but she will eat around the tomatoes in order to get to the the bread which has absorbed the tomato juices and vinaigrette. Yes, we're a little wonky around here.

This makes enough for two. It can easily be increased (more tomatoes, more bread, etc) to serve a larger crowd.

1 cup day old bread, cut into 1/2" cubes              
2 cups tomatoes, diced 
¼ red onion, sliced
8 to 10 oil cured olives, pitted
1 teaspoon capers
¼ cup torn fresh basil leaves
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add the tomatoes, onion, olives, and capers to the bowl: season with salt and ground black pepper. Let the tomatoes sit and marinate. About 2 minutes before serving, add the bread cubes and the basil. Mix together and allow the bread to soften by soaking up the vinaigrette. Divide into two portions and serve, avoiding the tomatoes, if you are so inclined.





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