What’s In Season Now: Stale Bread

July 10, 2014 at 9:46 am

Don’t Use That Bread Sophie, I’m Letting it Go Bad

bread salad

There are times to finish your bread, times to encourage your daughter make something else for lunch. This time of year, let your bread go stale. You want it that way. You also want summer onions. I made this week, two-thirds of the triumvirate of my repertoire. On Tuesday night, my daughter and I were at Trader Joe’s for soy milk. She urged we also buy avocados. Since guacamole is part of that repertoire, and we have tomatoes and serrano chiles in the Bungalow, I said let’s get. However, we have to wait until tomorrow I said. We need the CSA box Mommy is bringing back for the summer onions. See, we have a few storage onions left, but there was no way I would use those sulfur bombs raw. Wait, I advised, the good onions were a-comin’. Little did I know how good those onions would be until my wife came home earlier than typical her delivery night.

Fresh Farms in Niles bakes some outstanding breads, across a variety of European styles. Given that the backbone of the store, when you peel away all the Russian smoked fish, the Indian lentils, the Romanian mittei, the Serbian cake, is Greek, you know you will enjoy especially, those styles, which usually include a natural starter based “country”, a Halsted standard seeded, and the flatbread called lagana.  We had picked up a crusty, sesame bread on Friday for our 4th fireworks picnic.  After keeping it from Sophie, it dried up properly for salad. This is the season to let your bread go stale. Make salad. Call it panzanella to sound continental. What drew me to bread salad, the buckets of water left in the bowl when using good local tomatoes and cucumbers. If nothing else, the stale bread keeps your salad from being soggy.  It is a solution better than the problem it solved.

It also wows your mouth many ways. It’s not a recipe kind of dish, God knows you don’t need to measure a thing, but I’ll let you in on all my tricks. First, include garlic. This adds your bass notes; something you might not notice but without you would know something was missing. Add the garlic to a big bowl. Then put in your stale bread, cubed. The idea is to put layers of flavor into your binding. Add chunks of cucumbers and tomatoes, a strong hand of salt and aggressive turns of the peppermill. Mix well. Again, the idea is to use the bread to absorb the juices. What comes next, you should heed, as it makes the difference between a good salad and a great salad: hot peppers and herbs. A little herb,  fresh parsley or basil or dried oregano or mint,  is not that unusual in a summer salad with tomatoes. The peppers, I am telling you that a little, or if you have my palate, a lot, make a salad. Don’t believe me. Go for Thai food. Then there’s the onions.

For a good portion of my eating life, onions, raw onions that is, were my kryptonite. The one thing I could not eat. In recent years, I have grown a tolerance for some raw onions, like in tacos. I can stand mild summer onions the best, and they play a vital role in most summer salads, both in eye appeal and well rounded taste. Still, I have never loved a raw onion until this week. I believe Chris from Tomato Mountain bought the seeds for these onions from Madame Zeroni. It’s not that these onions are sweet or mild, but that they are full and complex, more in line with a ramp or good green garlic. I wish you could have some too, but you need to be a CSA subscriber.

Let’s finish this post by finishing the salad. I told you the other day that I never measure out oil and vinegar for salad dressing. Instead, I dash them right into the bowl. This matters in bread salad. The initial drops of vinegar flavor the bread in its own way while the oil lubricates the ingredients. Use your own judgment for what seems right; start light if you are not sure your hand. You also need something pickled for the full effect, see what’s in your pantry maybe last year’s scapes. You can do no worse than store bought pepperoncinis. Finish with cheese for a meal. Fresh mozzarella, feta cheese or asiago all work, producing different final profiles. This is the time of year where you want your bread to go bad.