SOOOOOOO much pressure at the corner of Water & South St! The teeming Charlottesville farmer’s market overflows with a multitude of seasonal veg and humanity. I scramble from stall to stall sweating profusely trying not to appear overwhelmed and half-crazy. Small children collide with my legs and screech incessantly from beneath painted faces covered in donut residue. Chaos. There is no shopping plan in place. My ability to make informed decisions slipping away as heat further penetrates my brain………
Produce purchases are starting to pile up, yet it is unclear what will be created in the kitchen. I’ll grab some of this. Tomatoes……yes, lots. It would be a good idea to also get some of that. Cucumber. Several of those. Green beans. Ahh….my amigo the red onion! Peppers? Yes, why not….I like red bell pepper very much. Should I tack on some bread for good luck? MMmmm…. a sensible choice. My market bags are heavy. I throw in the towel, avoid several townspeople that I may have recently offended, and hurriedly make my way home to inspect the utter randomness.
The nightmarish scene detailed above is known as Confused Farmer’s Market Syndrome – more commonly known as CFMS. Luckily friends, there’s no need to find a support group for this syndrome (besides, my week is already full of other group meetings). I am not a Doctor, and I never even played one on TV, but I do know that PANZANELLA is the cure or CFMS.
Panzanella is an Italian dish originating in the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Lazio. The dish is a bread salad popular in the summer months and is sometimes referred to as “leftover salad.” The base of panzanella includes sliced bread (often day old) and fresh tomatoes, flavored with basil, quality olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Panzanella’s true beauty and functionality stem from the additional ingredients that can be added to enhance flavor. Essentially, you can toss in anything under the sun that is found at a farmer’s market or in the pantry. All of the following are fair game: lettuce, celery, carrots, red onion, summer squash, cucumber, tuna, parsley, boiled eggs, mint, bell peppers, fennel, olives, white or red wine, capers, anchovies, lemon juice, leftover cheese bits and garlic. You get the picture. Panzanella holds the power to unify seemingly disparate farmer’s market purchases, thereby eliminating dreadful CFMS.
I hesitate to provide any type of recipe for panzanella because the fun lies in unbridled creativity and lack of boundaries, but if you want a base start HERE. If you add some really far-out, interesting things that make your dish noteworthy, please don’t hesitate to share these ingredients with the folks at Feast.
PS: No disrespect to the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies (also referred to as CFMS). I stole your acronym fair and square. Farmers markets were around long before the state of California or organized mineralogists.