Monday, August 29, 2011

Tuscan Salad

Over the weekend, I made a salad that was so delicious I just have share it. It started out with some inspiration from the "Everyday Italian" cooking show, Giada De Laurentiis, and the "Artichoke and Tomato Panzanella" that she made. It looked so delicious and fun that I had to make something like it.

I rarely follow a recipe. If I do, it's often a jumping off point of inspiration and I end up doing my own thing. That's pretty much what I did with this. Her version has olives which I don't like and I'm allergic to. Also, there were some things I wanted to incorporate into the salad that she didn't use. Here's my version...

1 pound of fresh mushrooms (I used half Crimini and half White Button)
1 bag of frozen, sliced artichoke hearts from Trader Joe's
1 Eggplant
1 container of tiny, multi-colored tomatoes from Trader Joe's (red, purple, orange and yellow but cherry or any other type of tomato would work fine)
1 package of Prosciutto from Trader Joe's
5 slices of Tuscan Pane bread from Trader Joe's or a hearty sourdough, French or other artisanal bread
6-8 Fresh Basil Leaves (use more or less depending on your taste)
Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar (or white wine vinegar...I used what I had)
Kosher Salt
Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw the artichoke hearts ahead of time. Or, rinse and drain frozen ones and place them in a baking dish. Cover them and thaw but don't heat or cook them in the microwave. Remove the lid and drizzle them with olive oil, toss and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Slice mushrooms into quarters or sixths (depending on how large they are) and place them in a baking dish large enough to spread them in a single layer on the bottom. Drizzle with olive oil, toss and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Peel and cut eggplant into slices about 1/2 inch thick and then cut the slices into cubes. Place them into a cake pan, baking dish or onto a cookie sheet that is large enough to spread them evenly in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, toss, sprinkle with salt and set them aside.

Place the three dishes/pans of eggplant, mushrooms and artichokes into a preheated, 400 degree oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, check the veggies and toss with a spoon to turn them. Remove them when they are roasted and tender but not mushy. They will likely finish at different times. Just keep setting the timer and checking them in 5-10 minute intervals. It shouldn't take much longer than 30 minutes, total.

Meanwhile, cut the bread into cubes, drizzle with olive oil and grill them in a large non-stick skillet or griddle, turning as needed, until they are golden and lightly crispy. Set them aside.

While the vegetables are roasting in the oven, rinse, drain, and slice the tiny tomatoes in halves and place them in a large bowl. Stack at least 6-8 average sized basil leaves (more or less depending on how much you like basil), roll them tightly and cut across the roll to create ribbons. This is a great way to cut up a variety of different herbs and it has a fun name, chiffonade. Sprinkle the basil ribbons over the sliced tomatoes. Set aside.

Tear prosciutto into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Whisk together approximately 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil and about 1/4 cup of vinegar, seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper.

Transfer all of the roasted vegetables and bread into the bowl with the tomatoes and basil and toss the ingredients together. Drizzle some of the dressing, toss and repeat until the salad is coated with the amount of dressing that you prefer.

Serve salad in bowls with a small pile of prosciutto on the top of each one. Enjoy!

"Tuscan Salad" seems like the perfect name for this. It reminds me of food that I've seen from that area. And, after a little research, I found that it matches descriptions of that type of food perfectly...bread is the pillar of their diet; meat, like prosciutto is popular; and, they love using fresh vegetables like mushrooms, artichokes, squash, tomatoes, and herbs.

My family loved it! It's full of flavor with the different vegetables, herbs and dressing. It's has wonderful textures with the juicy tomatoes, firm and juicy mushrooms, crispy bread, and creamy prosciutto. And, it's gorgeous with the beautiful colors of the many colors of tomatoes and the pops of bright green basil. It was perfect with a glass of wine. Mmmmm!

I can't wait to eat this again! And, I'm already thinking of ways to change it up by adding things like roasted garlic; replacing the frozen artichoke hearts with the delicious marinated ones you can get at Costco; and using a heartier bread. Let me know if you try this, how you like it, and any changes you try. Buon Appetito!


jomamma said...

That looks so yummy but the first ingredient stopped me in my tracks... I'm allergic to mushrooms...

Benita said...

Oh my goodness. That sounds awesome! I like everything in there. And it's pretty to boot.

Too bad you live three time zones away. :)