I hesitate to admit this when I’m about to tell you to summon summer with roasted tomato panzanella, but I haven’t found as much displeasure in the weather this winter as I ordinarily do. New York City is the proud provider of freezing cold sunshine, and I have a hard time frowning on sunny days or during Prospect Park’s especially beautiful winter golden hour, even when the sun forgets it’s supposed to heat as well as brighten. We visited Lake Placid in January, which put cold into perspective and also reminded us that snowshoeing is a reason to leave the house, I discovered rosemary & fennel seed tea and expanded my mastery of textile arts (crochet, macramé), Alex got into mixing Manhattans, TV got better and better, and we braised a lot of meat. Winter! For two more days until spring!
In this spirit of optimism, I’ve been ordering the most unusual local vegetables I see on Good Eggs, like romanesco cauliflower and sunchokes, in an effort to celebrate what little the frigid ground can produce. It works out okay, or at least the crucifers and roots aren’t fatal to my outlook, so long as I splurge on herbs, too or dollop everything in green sauce.
That’s how I ended up with a lot of basil hanging around. I had opened up a can of whole tomatoes for these roasted oysters, and I roasted them without their juice, but with a lot of olive oil and salt. The oily juice I stored them in seemed like it really wanted to be soaked up in stale bread the next day, and then it hit me: a winter version of the epic summer salad was staring out at me from the fridge. I tore up some mozzarella (just the regular supermarket kind), marinated shallots, and poured balsamic vinegar. And then I cracked on an egg onto my plate of rich panzanella.
Winter’s on the wane, but tomato season won’t arrive for months. Here’s what to eat while you wait.
- Makes 2 cups
- One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, juices drained off and reserved
- Olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 slices bread (I used sliced health bread, but this is better with bakery sourdough or miche), stale or lightly toasted, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup roasted tomatoes (recipe follows), coarsely chopped
- About ⅓ cup torn mozzarella
- Big handful basil, chopped
- ¼ cup really good olive oil - if you've made the tomatoes in advance and stored them in olive oil, by all means use that!
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
- Egg, optional
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil in a dish large enough to fit them in one layer, then place in the oven. Roast for about 45 minutes, until the garlic is golden and the tomatoes are blackened in places. Salt well, let cool, then store in the fridge, covered with a little more oil.
- In a small bowl, combine the shallot and cider vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes, to mellow out the shallot. Drain off the vinegar and reserve for another use.
- In a large bowl, combine the shallot slices, bread pieces, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Toss to combine, then season with the olive oil and the vinegar. Sprinkle generously with salt, then set aside so the flavors can combine--at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, or in the fridge overnight. Taste for balance of flavors. If the salad doesn't pop, it probably needs more vinegar and salt. Eat cold or at room temp. If you want to plant a fried egg on top, fry one up and plop it on - the cheese might melt a little...