Day After Panzanella from Three Story House
This week we offer a post from Courtney Miller Santo author of Three Story House, which just went on sale in August, and another TSI favorite, The Roots of the Olive Tree. (You may remember this delicious pasta recipe inspired by that one.) Her latest book, set in Memphis, TN, is the story of three cousins who come together to restore a family home and ultimately their faith in themselves in the process. It’s a fabulous end of summer read and a perfect companion to the dish below, a dish very likely to be prepared and served by the character named Elyse whose culinary skills had been playing second fiddle to a lingering romantic obsession.
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Late summer in Memphis is the time when everyone’s gardens come in. Zucchinis and tomatoes overwhelm countertops. At the same time, everyone is back from the beach and catching up on their entertaining, which means plenty of leftovers of roast chicken and boules and what everyone wants most is a way to eat without turning on their ovens. This Day After Panzanella takes care of all these problems with delicious ease.
Among the three cousins in Three Story House, Elyse is the only one who knows her way around a kitchen. Lizzie, like many athletes, equates food with fuel, while Isobel, the former child actress, sees food as the enemy. During the year they spend renovating their family’s home, Elyse manages to open her cousins’ minds to the pleasure of food and most especially the joys of a meal made entirely out of leftovers. The cousins would have enjoyed this Day After Panzanella (which in her practical way, Elyse would describe it as a salad where croutons were a main ingredient) in late summer in the backyard, which overlooks the Mississippi River. It would be lunchtime and in their own gossipy way, they’d be discussing the events of the previous night’s dinner party held to celebrate Isobel’s success. Tasting the salad’s rustic, earthy ingredients, each of the cousins would be reminded that simple pleasures often trump the complex.
1 cups roasted chicken
½ loaf rustic bread
4 large, ripe tomatoes
2 medium zucchini
½ red onion
½ cup Italian parsley
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
Shred or roughly chop the roasted chicken and set aside.
Tear the bread into bite sized chunks. If it is not already stale, put it in a single layer on a baking sheet and into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. If you want to get extra fancy, drizzle it with olive oil and throw in some garlic, salt and pepper. Set the bread aside.
Roughly chop the tomatoes into bite-sized cubes. Peel the skin off zucchini and then use the vegetable peeler to make thin ribbons of zucchini. Thinly slice the onion and roughly chop the parsley. Put all the vegetables and herbs into a large serving bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the juice of the two lemons and the olive oil. Pour this mixture over the vegetables and use a fork to mix together. Add the chicken and then the bread, using your hands to mix all the ingredients.
Add salt and pepper to taste and let it sit at room temperature. It will be delicious for up to two hours afterward.