July 10, 2011

Farm Party Potluck: Panzanella Salad

Chickadee Creek Farm Potluck 
This weekend, my husband and I were lucky enough to be invited to a "Farm Party" at Chickadee Creek Farm, a local transitional organic vegetable, herb and flower farm which is operated by a friend of ours.  Its a yearly event, during which people who are members of the farm, and other lucky guests get together for a potluck dinner and get a tour of the farm.

I have never been to a potluck dinner at a farm, so I was a little nervous about what I should bring as my food contribution.  However, during a brief moment of watching TV, I saw Paula Deen making her version of a Panzanella Salad... and it looked delicious!! I decided then that I would make my own version of a Panzanella Salad, focusing on fresh veggies and simple flavors for the farm event. (I will be making and trying Paula's version sometime very soon...)

Panzanella Salad is traditionally made up of bread, tomatoes, basil and a vinaigrette.  However, there are tons of different adaptations out there... and its very easy to come up with your own. Here's mine:

Farm Fresh Panzanella
1 large cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
Medium sized loaf of multigrain chiabatta bread (I used 3 large rolls)
Fresh oregano and thyme, chopped (about a palm full)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

First, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Then, cut up bread into bite-sized cubes and toss cubes with extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat), and kosher salt.  Spread out in one layer onto baking sheet, sprinkle with the chopped garlic and about half of the herbs.  Sprinkle with black pepper.  Bake until bread cubes are golden brown and crisp, tossing once... about 15-20 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine chopped cucumber, yellow pepper, red pepper, whole cherry tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. Whisk together balsamic vinegar (about 1/4 cup) and olive oil in a separate bowl, adding in the remaining fresh herbs.  Toss the vinaigrette with the fresh vegetables, place in refrigerator to keep cool until the bread is ready.

Allow bread to cool down to room temperature, then mix into the vegetable mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature.

The farm party was excellent.  It was interesting to see the crops and learn more about the hard work that goes into producing our produce!  My panzanella salad fit right in, and was so good that I came home with an empty bowl. Our dinner was a delicious sampling of local produce and excellent homemade foods and desserts... I'm hoping that we can take part every year.  I hope everyone had a good weekend!