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Grilled Panzanella

Good recipes, real “keeper” recipes, are the ones that strike a chord at a very particular time and place in your life. Then you remember them fondly—for what you were doing at the time or how the food made you feel. Jeanine Donofrio’s beautiful panzanella salad has this affect on me—it reminds me of traveling in Italy and Greece and warm summer nights spent eating tomatoes, good bread, basil and salty cheese late into the evening. Jeanine’s blog, Love and Lemons, is known for its stunning photography and lush salad recipes, and I was ever so thankful to stumble upon this one, where she takes a relatively basic salad recipe and transforms it into a meal with poached eggs and a healthy dose of grilled bread. It's perfect for hot summer nights when turning on the oven just isn’t an option.

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Ingredients

Salad

1 small red onion, sliced thin

Half loaf day-old ciabatta bread

Olive oil

1/2 garlic clove

1 1/2 cups cherry and/or pear tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup ricotta salata cheese, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes

5 or 6 basil leaves, torn

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

2 to 4 eggs, for poaching (optional)

Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (or white or red wine vinegar)

Squeeze of lemon juice (1 to 2 tablespoons, to taste)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Few pinches red pepper flakes

Directions

1. Optional step: In a small bowl, toss red onion slices with a teaspoon or two of the champagne vinegar. Set aside while you work on the rest of the steps. This helps cut down on the harsh raw onion taste.

2. Slice bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle a few pinches of salt and grill both sides until lightly charred. Remove bread from grill and rub it with the sliced side of a garlic clove while the bread is still warm. Chop the bread into cubes and set aside.

3. In another small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes, tomatoes, onion slices, ricotta salata and basil together with the dressing.

4. Top with toasted pine nuts and a few more red pepper flakes. Allow the salad to sit for 15 to 20 minutes for the dressing to soak into the bread. Taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Top plated servings with poached eggs if you wish. If you’re not familiar with how to poach an egg, Smitten Kitchen has a nice tutorial.

Serves two as a main course, four as a side

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