This is my Sonoran twist on the Italian favorite, Panzanella. It’s a great summer time salad. When we take it to a barbecue we just call it BLT Salad. If we serve it at dinner… well that’s a different matter. It’s then called Sonoran Panzanella.
4 cups assorted small tomatoes, like cherry, grape and yellow pear
2 Tbl. Canola oil for frying
4 cups good crusty French or Italian bread cut into ¾ inch cubes and dried overnight
6 slices thick-cut hardwood smoked bacon, chopped and then fried, drippings reserved
1 poblano chile, roasted skinned and chopped
½ avocado, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup watercress leaves, rinsed well
2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Black pepper
2 Tbl. *Chiffonade of basil leaves
1 Tbl. *Chiffonade of mint leaves
3 Tbl. Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese for topping
Cut the tomatoes into bite size pieces. I cut the cherry tomatoes in quarters and the smaller tomatoes in half. In a hot pan, fry half of the tomatoes in the canola oil until they start to brown and dry out a little, remove from pan and set aside to cool. In a large serving bowl, toss the dried bread in the bacon drippings. In a separate bowl whisk together all dressing ingredients, except the oil. Then drizzle in the oil while whisking to emulsify. Add all other salad ingredients to the bread and toss well. Drizzle in the dressing and toss again. Serve on chilled plates topped with a little fresh grated Parmesan cheese and a good, cold, crisp, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.
Serves 6 to 8
Chiffonade is a fancy French cook term for laying leaves on top of one another, rolling them up like a cigarette and then cutting them, the short way very finely. Heck you’ve probably been chiffonading for years and didn’t even know it!
This famous salad is not Italian, but rather a true treasure of Baja. Originally from Tijuana, Mexico, it was created by the famous chef Alex-Caesar Cardini, who first called it “Aviator’s Salad”, in honor of the pilot’s from Rockwell Field Air Base in San Diego California that frequented his restaurant. Later it was called The “Caesar” Salad in honor of Cardini. Many recipes call for lemon juice but I believe this original recipe which uses Key limejuice is has a much fresher taste.
10-12 Fresh romaine lettuce leaves
1-cup Garlic croutons
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves fresh garlic
6 flat anchovy fillets, drained and minced or 1 Tbl Anchovy paste
* Yolk of 1 fresh large egg
1 Tbl. fresh squeezed key limejuice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
Pinch of crushed red chile
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil
Rinse lettuce well and dry in a salad spinner.
Tear into bite size pieces and place in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour. Refrigerating makes the lettuce crisper.
Rub the salad bowl with the garlic and then mash it into a paste. Add the anchovies, egg yolk, limejuice, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, salt and red chile. Mash and mix well. Then whisk in the olive oil.
Toss together lettuce, half of the croutons and half of the cheese. Toss again. Place salad on serving plates and sprinkle top with remaining cheese and croutons. Offer fresh ground black pepper.
*Authors note; Eggs can contain dangerous bacteria, if the eggs in your
area have been known to have this problem, or if you are concerned at all,
Substitute eggs with 1 Tbl. heavy cream. The flavor change is minimal.