Spicy Panzanella

Best-selling author Leanne Brown is currently travelling the US on her book tour and training for her first New York City Marathon. She runs five times a week and explores the different tour stops on foot. “I ran the waterfront in San Francisco from AT&T Field to the Golden Gate Bridge,” she says. “And there’s one [upcoming] Sunday when I’m supposed to run 20 miles on the same day that I’m at a book fair in Pittsburgh.”Brown’s book Good and Cheap was inspired by the realisation that 46 million Americans have to survive on only $4 per day, the amount provided through the U.S. government’s food stamps program. The recipes highlight ways to use cooking techniques like slow roasting and broiling to transform tough, inexpensive ingredients into something tasty, such as spicy pulled pork or eggplant salad flecked with chili flakes. And Brown offers strategies for turning affordable pantry staples like dried beans and potatoes into main courses, like the filling for a jalapeno-spiked burritos.
Brown’s panzanella salad is a great postrun snack or meal. She toasts stale bread and uses it as the base for this salad mixed with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, and a splash of olive oil and lime juice. “It’s got lots of juicy stuff in it, which is hydrating, coupled with the carbs from bread, which satisfies the craving for something more substantial,” says Brown. The dish can be made with just about anything from the garden – or the fruit and veggie odds and ends from the refrigerator. “Along with tomatoes and cucumbers this salad makes great use of leftover grapes, stone fruit, zucchini, onion –you name it,” says Brown.
2 small field cucumbers or 1 English cucumber, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
4 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a few drops for the pan
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped tomato
juice of 1 limeInstructions
1. If you’re using field cucumbers – usually cheaper than English – peel them to remove the tough skin. (A little leftover peel is not a problem.) For English cucumbers, there’s no need to peel.

2. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the chopped tomatoes to use in the dressing, but throw the rest of the tomatoes and all of the cucumbers into a large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; the salt helps draw out the juices. Toss the vegetables and set aside.

3. Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add a few drops of olive oil. Add the jalapeño and sauté until it sizzles and smells good, about a minute, then add the rest of the chopped tomato and a tablespoon of water. Cook until the tomato juices release, another 2 minutes. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

4. Once the water has evaporated, turn off the heat and dump the jalapeño-tomato mixture on your cutting board. Chop it up very finely, then throw it back into the pan – with the heat off – with the lime juice and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir to combine, taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. You’ve got dressing!

5. Chop or tear the bread into bite-size pieces, then toast it in a skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until the bread chunks are toasty on all sides. Alternatively, just toast full slices of bread in a toaster and tear them up afterward, or skip the toasting if the bread is already super-hard.

6. Add the bread and dressing to the vegetables and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper once more. Let the salad sit for a few minutes so that the bread can soak up the juices, then serve.


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