Good Salads Part 2: Dope as fuck panzanella I made for about $5

I just made a tasty as fuck panzanella (“bread salad” for the uninitiated), and as I was eating it out of a tupperware with my hands at 12:25 AM in my unlit kitchen, I realized that I must share the recipe with you for the following reasons:

  1. As previously mentioned, it’s tasty as fuck
  2. It’s super cheap and easy to make
  3. It also happens to be vegan

My friend at work is being vegan this week, which is why the vegan element came to mind. I thought while I was eating the salad that maybe veganism wouldn’t be too bad with food like this, because the bread in this salad is so savory and gets to be almost a meaty texture. Not saying I am going vegan, but I could totally live a fulfilling life for about a week, tops.

Here’s what you’ll need for this particular recipe, along with respective prices that I paid and some background on each ingredient:

  • Sourdough bread
    • $2 for a loaf (I used two slices, which was about 1/4 of the whole thing). Purchased at Butterfield Market for half price when they were about to close. Some sourdough recipes use milk or butter so you’d have to check, but your basic recipe only uses flour, sourdough starter, and salt.
  • Broccoli
    • $2 for a bigass frozen bag at Fairway. I used about 1/3 of the bag.
  • Corn
    • $1.50 for a mediumass frozen bag at Fairway. I used about 1/4 of the bag.
  • Grape tomatoes (duh)
    • $2 for one pint at Fairway. I used 1/2 the pint.
  • Onion
    • $3 for a bag of 6 at Fairway, I used half an onion.
  • Parsley
    • Free. Grown on my windowsill.
  • Oregano
    • $ unknown, probably around $3.50 for a small jar.
  • Garlic
    • $ unknown, probably around $2 for 3 heads, I used one clove.
  • Olive oil
    • $20 for 3 liters at Fairway
  • Lemon
    • $0.25 each at fruit stand. I used juice of one slice
  • White wine vinegar
    • $6? I don’t know.
  • Salt, pepper, sugar
    • Basic seasonings get in for free.

Obviously if you add up all the prices to acquire all these ingredients, you’d get something around $35, but considering the small proportion of the retail size of each ingredient I used for this particular recipe, I would price the cost of this recipe (which will actually work as two meals, serving-wise) around $5 or less.

Here’s how you make it:

  1. Slice two thick pieces of bread. Cut into squares. Mince garlic. Heat up olive oil in medium pan on medium heat, add garlic. Add oregano. It should smell extremely good. Add bread right away, stir around a bit to coat with oil.
  2. Transfer pan contents to a large bowl. Add more olive oil to coat the bread, plus salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking tray and broil in toaster oven or regular oven until golden brown, flipping the bread squares once.
  3. While the bread is broiling, blanche the broccoli. If you don’t know how to blanche, Google it. You basically just boil it in salted water, strain, then shock it in ice water. After blanching, quickly stir fry the broccoli in some olive oil over high heat until it’s at a texture that you like.
  4. As you wait for the broccoli to cool down, prep your onions, corn, and tomatoes. Dice half the onion, then put it in a small bowl with about 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar. Add about a half tablespoon of granulated sugar, stir. This both brings out the flavor of the onions and makes them less onion-y. It is character building for the onion. If you are using frozen corn, which I recommend you always keep in your freezer, defrost in hot water and strain. Slice grape tomatoes lengthwise, and if you wish, give about half of them a good squeeze over a sink or garbage can so their juices and seeds don’t make the salad too watery.
  5. By now your bread and broccoli should have cooled down. In the big bowl, give your broccoli a spritz of lemon, then throw in the bread, tomatoes, onions, corn, a few sprigs of parsley if you have it, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well.

Most panzanella recipes recommend serving immediately, but I was making this for lunch the next day. I still wanted to taste it, though, so I put some in a bowl and added some white wine vinaigrette that I keep in the fridge (you can find the recipe in my previous salad post). It was pretty delicious. I put the rest of the undressed salad in a tupperware and planned on tossing a lunch portion with dressing in the morning before leaving for work. But the interesting thing is, when I went back to eat more of the undressed salad at midnight, it tasted so much better than it did right after prep, even without dressing. Obviously, the salad had had more time to soak in and distribute all its flavors, and the bread was this great juicy, chewy, crunchy texture. I’ll have to try it again in the morning to see if it even needs the dressing.

LIFE LESSON FROM THIS EDITION OF “GOOD SALADS”: We can always live with less, and sometimes we can even enjoy it.

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