AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: The Staples of Life (Recipes: Panzanella and Strata) DATE: 9/08/2009 10:06:00 AM ----- BODY:
By some strange miracle, the blight never struck my tiny patch of soil. In fact, I have more tomatoes than in any other year before. This year, when I transplanted the tomatoes in the spring, I recalled a friend's advice: Prune the bottom two leaves and bury the root mound deeper than usual to allow for extra root growth and stability. Could this have made the difference? Thankfully, friends are quite enthusiastic about relieving me of my bounty.

Every meal this week has a variation of tomatoes, basil, bread and mozzarella. Who knew you could make so many different variations with the same four ingredients.

Panzanella...

Bruschetta...

Strata...

Panzanella
Recipes abound for panzanella. Most suggest that stale bread needs to be soaked in water and then squeezed out. I don't fully understand the purpose of this step -- obviously, the bread needs to soften up. But why not soften it in tomato juice?

2 cups cubed bread -- stale or toasted
1 large cucumber
1 tsp. salt
2 tomatoes
8 oz. fresh mozzarella
fresh basil, chopped
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Slice cucumbers. Toss with salt and let sit for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cube tomatoes and set aside in a small bowl. Cube mozzarella.
3. Drain excess water off of the cucumbers.
4. The tomatoes should start to give off water after 15 minutes of sitting. Take this liquid and toss with bread cubes.
5. Mix the remaining ingredients together just before serving. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Tomato Mozzarella Strata
Strata is a breakfast dish, similar to a quiche or frittata.

3 tbs. butter
4 slices bread
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbs. fresh herbs: basil, scallions, tarragon and/or parsley
1 tbs. finely diced celery
2 tomatoes, sliced
8 oz. ball fresh mozzarella, sliced

1. Melt butter in a 9" x 9" pyrex dish. Lay bread slices on top of melted butter.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, herbs and celery. Season salt.
3. Pour egg mix over the bread.
4. Layer tomatoes and basil on top. Sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper for seasoning.
5. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until eggs are set. Serving immediately.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:9/08/2009 08:45:00 PM I love the look of the strata - beautiful! And, so glad somebody had good luck with tomatoes. I was at the green market the other day, and there are some there, but they looked pretty spotty. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:9/09/2009 01:14:00 PM I've been reading about blight everywhere. Glad you survived it to make this lovely dish. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger adele DATE:9/10/2009 09:03:00 AM Oooh. I had a wonderful strata with sausage and green chiles a few months ago, and I've been wondering if I could do a vegetarian version with tomatoes. This looks great! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous we are never full DATE:9/13/2009 10:49:00 AM OH

my

GOD.

THAT STRATA!! gimme a piece...now!

our first batch of tomatoes had the blight and the second batch we got didn't - it was a weird summer all around. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:9/16/2009 04:24:00 PM "Prune the bottom two leaves and bury the root mound deeper than usual to allow for extra root growth and stability"...I'm having a hard time visualizing this.

I think I should change up my usual Caprese salad and try the Panzanella instead. Would you squeeze the tomato sauce out of the bread afterwards? Maybe that's a silly question...but I'm just wondering if you treat the tomato sauce like water. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:9/17/2009 09:14:00 AM T.W. -- literally, spotty? My end of season tomatoes definitely have a few spots on them.

noble pig -- me too! I think I had some blight, but managed to contain it.

adele -- that sounds delicious too!

WANF -- that's great you had time to plant a second round.

Psychgrad -- Have you noticed on tomato stems little hairs/fuzz. The deeper you plant the seedling, the more of the fuzz that turns into roots. More roots, greater ability to absorb nutrients from the soil.

And I didn't squeeze the tomato water out. Truthfully, I don't understand the purpose of that step at all. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:9/20/2009 08:46:00 PM Sorta get the idea...I'll probably be emailing you with questions when it comes time to plant my garden. ----- --------