A recent Time magazine article caught my eye. "Lidia Bastianich Saves Our Dough " featured ways to use bread.
Bastianich, a famous Italian cook, author, restaurant owner and PBS food show host, said "Americans waste a lot of food.
For example, we all love bread, but we all have bread left over, and we ultimately throw it out. So let's recycle it, and make it into a great new meal."
One of her ideas: panzanella (pahn-zah-NEHL-lah), an Italian bread salad usually made with onions, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, vinegar and seasonings mixed with bread pieces that are several days old. The bread, because it is hard, retains most of its shape even when mixed with a vinaigrette.
This salad is one of my favorite ways to use leftover bread in the summer, especially when it's tomato time. Perfectly ripe tomatoes release juice that seeps into the bread and slightly softens it.
Panzanella falls into my clean-out-the-fridge salad category because just about anything goes: asparagus, onions, green beans, zucchini, cucumber and so on. This salad can be served as a side with grilled chicken. Or, top with strips of grilled chicken for a main dish.
So, with the idea of not wasting dough, the kind you spend or the kind you eat, here are other options:
Breadcrumbs: Pulse leftover bread in a food processor. Use immediately or place in a plastic baggie and freeze for 6-8 months. You can pull out only what you need because the crumbs don't clump together.
Parfait: Soak leftover bread slices in strong coffee. Bastianich suggests adding rum for a kick. Melt leftover chocolate pieces, and layer soaked bread, melted chocolate and whipped cream and chopped nuts.
French toast: Stale or days-old bread makes great French toast. The bread will hold up and not be too mushy.
Strata: Cut a 16-ounce baguette into 1-inch slices. Place one layer of slices in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Mix together 8 eggs, 1 cup milk or half-and-half or cream, seasonings, 1 cup of cheese, sauteed vegetables and, if desired, cooked sausage. Pour half the mixture over the bread. Place the remaining bread slices on top and pour the remaining egg mixture over the bread. Press down to make sure the bread is covered by the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Bake at 350 degrees until puffed.
Panzanella With Herbs
Serves: 12 (side dish servings)
1 pint grape tomatoes, washed, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 day-old baguette (16 ounces) cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 hothouse cucumber, washed, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
4 green onions, washed, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 cups blanched green beans or asparagus
Favorite all-purpose seasoning blend such as Mrs. Dash or Morton Nature's Seasons Seasoning Blend
Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt and sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes.
Tear or cut the bread slices into bite-size pieces and place in a large serving bowl. Add the cucumber, green onions, red onion slices and green beans. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Sprinkle salad with seasoning blend or season as desired.
Drizzle the vinaigrette (recipe follows) sparingly over the salad and toss it gently to coat. You may have leftover vinaigrette. It will keep for several days and can be used on any salad.
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or white vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs such as tarragon, thyme or basil
In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all the vinaigrette ingredients and shake well to combine.