Here are recipes for two summer salads that both nourish and refresh. The first is a tabbouleh from chef Alon Shaya, who helms the wildly popular Denver restaurant Safta. The recipe incorporates his options on a couple of ingredients (lemon zest in place of preserved lemon, for example).
Shaya’s tabbouleh teeters in favor of the totter of parsley over moistened bulghur wheat. (Typical tabbouleh recipes are closer to 50/50.) But that’s what makes it so refreshing. That, and all that lemon.
I’ve reworked my panzanella recipe over some summers now. Most panzanella recipes say to “moisten the stale bread with water, then squeeze out the excess.” Why sop with something without taste? Use the “water” from ripe tomatoes; it leaves its flavor behind, inside the bread where it belongs.
In old Italian, a “zana” was a large, deep, oval-shaped basket woven of reeds. A “zanella” co-opts this meaning to signify a largish, deep serving dish, perfect for the “pane,” or bread, that is the backbone of the salad.
A fine way to eat panzanella is to scoop it with leaves of romaine, forgoing the fork or spoon. As you wish, but keep the salad traditional and keep out add-ons such as tuna, hard-boiled eggs, celery or — mamma mia — mozzarella balls (ciliegine).
It’s not panzanella, then, just something else, capriciously so.
Tabbouleh with Preserved Lemon and Almonds
From “Shaya,” by Alon Shaya (Knopf, 2018). Baharat is blend of sweet, earthy and warm spices common to the Middle East and North Africa. Serves 4-6.
- 1⁄4 cup water
- 1⁄8 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
- 5 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon minced preserved lemon (or 1 teaspoon finely minced lemon zest)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baharat (or pumpkin pie spice)
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 quarts lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from about 4 bunches)
- 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 1⁄4 red onion, finely chopped
Bring the water to a boil with 1⁄8 teaspoon salt (this won’t take long, since there’s so little of it). Put the bulgur in a small heatproof bowl, cover it with the boiling water, cover with plastic wrap or foil, and let it rest until all the water is absorbed, 15 minutes or so. Fluff it with a fork and let it cool.
Whisk together the lemon juice, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, preserved lemon (or lemon zest), baharat (or pumpkin pie spice) and allspice. Stream in the olive oil while you whisk to finish the dressing.
Finely chop all the parsley and toss it in a large bowl with the bulgur, almonds and onion. Drizzle in the dressing and mix by hand. Serve right away.
- 2 cups hearty-crumbed bread (such as ciabatta or good quality baguette), stale, if possible, shorn of its crusts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 3 medium ripe red tomatoes, peeled and halved
- 1/2 sweet white or red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed into a paste with a bit of sea salt
- 3 flat silver anchovies, drained
- 2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and squeezed
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded, deveined, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 cup Persian cucumbers, partially peeled, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
- 8 large or 12-15 medium leaves fresh basil
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toast the bread: In a slow oven (200 degrees), dry out the bread cubes on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes. If you wish them golden, turn on the broiler at some distance from them for 10 minutes to finish. Remove from the oven, set aside and cool.
Prepare the tomatoes: With a fine sieve set over a large bowl, seed the tomatoes, squeezing out their juices. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces and set aside. Discard the seeds from the sieve. Replace the reserved pieces in the sieve to continue to drain. Reserve the strained “tomato water” in the bowl.
Prepare the onions: Put the onion slices in a large bowl and cover by 2 inches with cold water. Squeeze the onions in your hand, tightly, 5 times over. Drain them of the water (it will be “milky”) and repeat the rinsing and squeezing 3 additional times. After a final draining, gather them inside a kitchen towel, wringing out as much water as you can. Reserve.
Make the dressing: Make a paste of the smashed garlic, anchovies and capers, grinding them together using a mortar and pestle or the flat side of a wooden spoon against the side of bowl. To the paste, add the olive oil and vinegar and a healthy pinch of salt. Whisk or stir well to combine. Toss in the diced pepper and cucumber and fold to coat with the dressing. Set aside.
In a very large bowl or deep serving platter, place the bread cubes and sprinkle generously with all the reserved tomato water. Let the bread soak up the tomato water for 15 minutes, tossing once or twice. Add the reserved tomato pieces, the onions and the dressing with the peppers and cucumbers. Correct for salt.
Rip up the basil leaves into smaller pieces and sprinkle over the panzanella. Toss everything together thoroughly and finish with generous grindings of black pepper. Serve.
Note: If the bread is very stale and, after sopping up the liquids, remains dryish, sprinkle with additional extra virgin olive oil.
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