Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Arugula and egg panzanella

Panzanella is just a fancy name for a salad with about equal volumes of bread, tomatoes, and greens, with some other great stuff. This is the best salad I have made in a while. I don't often make it (a nice loaf of bread rarely makes it to "day-old" around here). But for some reason I really wanted some yesterday, so I bought a fresh loaf of bread and made the croutons in the oven. This combination has really strong flavors - sourdough, herbs, vinegar - with a little creaminess from the eggs and cheese - I think it's just about right. We had this on its own for dinner, but it would also be a good side dish for some grilled chicken, steak, or fish. See below for my favorite method of hard-boiling eggs.

Ingredients - serves 4

A third to a half a loaf of day old sourdough bread - sliced and left out to dry overnight, or dried in the oven.
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
3 T. olive oil
1 t. spicy mustard
Salt and pepper
2-3 c. arugula (1/2 a package), coarsely chopped or ripped
2-3 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. basil, sliced in a chiffonade (one small package from store)
1/4 c. mint, sliced in a chiffonade or just chopped
1 small shallot, diced
***2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
About 10 thin slices of parmesan cheese, sliced with a carrot peeler

1. Make the croutons. If the bread is not very stale/dry, dry slices in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes right on the rack. Then break the slices up into bite sized pieces.
2. Whisk together oil, vinegar and mustard. Season with some salt and pepper.
3. Prepare and combine arugula, tomatoes, basil, mint, and shallot in a serving bowl.
4. Toss with the vinegrette.
5. Add the bread and toss again.
6. Put the egg slices on top. Peel the parmesan cheese right over the bowl.
7. Serve immediately. If there are leftovers, the bread while not be crisp anymore, but it will still be good!

***To hard boil eggs
Way too often, people really overcook their hard-boiled eggs. You might think you can't overcook a hard boiled egg, but that's not true. A properly cooked hard-boiled egg has a solid, but fragile white (not rubbery or chewy), and a soft yolk that is creamy, crumbly, but cohesive, and has little to no gray tint. An overcooked hard-boiled egg has a rubbery white, a chalky yolk, and a lot of gray tint on the yolk. I actually like my hard boiled eggs even a little less cooked that what I described - with a yolk that is a little gelatinous (sorry, that sounds gross, but I can't think of a better description). Here's how to achieve a good hard boiled egg.

1. Put eggs in saucepan.
2. Cover eggs by 1 inch with warm water.
3. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 seconds.
4. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan with a lid that fits. Let the eggs sit for:
12-15 minutes for a traditional hard boiled egg (depending on the size)
10 minutes for a gelatinous yolk (seriously, it's good)
5. Immediately remove from the hot water and play in cold water with ice cubes. If the ice melts, add more.
6. Once they're completely cool you can peel them or refrigerate for later use. To peel them, slide a spoon between the eggs and the shell while immersing the eggs under cool water.

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