Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Lil Ms Squirrel's Panzanella

I was on a course today and during the breaks (because my mind NEVER wanders when I'm at work), I got to thinking about identity and more specifically how I identify myself.  Like most courses, you had to do the 'Name, Job Title, How Long You've Been With the Company, Tell Us Something Unusual' icebreaker-y thing at the start.  Knowing pretty much everyone in the room, I may have tuned out just a little and focussed my attention on the course notes.

When on another course recently, we were asked to do the same exercise and I decided to shake things up a bit by introducing myself with my Twitter profile.  It sums me up quite well in 140 characters and tells people more about me than they would probably ever care to know.  Saying so much in such as small amount of letters is pretty amazing for someone like me who has a tendency for verbosity.

If you've never seen my Twitter profile (why not??!), I sum my self up like this:

"Slummy mummy, blogger, jogger, maker, baker, doer, high heeled shoer, daydream believer, Mrs , and international woman of mystery"

Just to clear up 'The International Woman of Mystery' bit, I work for one of those institutions that if you knew who it was, I'd probably have to kill you.  In fact, I'm now worried every time I vaguely mention my work on my blog that I'm violating our recently published social media policy.  Mostly because with a bit of smart Googling, you can find out what I do and where.  I'm not at all important.  But I like to keep people guessing.

Salady goodness

I have various personas depending on the situation but at work, if people don't know me personally, they know me as 'the lady with the shoes'.  The men always joke about who will steal my shoes (especially the red patent heels) if I have to leave them in one of the 'safe' areas before donning my oh-so-sexy safety shoes.

All of the older ladies on site are very taken with my collection of towering heels and enviously tell me that they wish they were young enough to still get away with wearing shoes like that.  And take great delight in telling me that I'll be in for a bout of varicose veins in a few years time and will find comfort in a frumpy pair of Dr Scholls like my mother used to wear when she was my age.  I'll stick to running shoes, thanks all the same.

Today, I was sporting a new pair of turquoise suede platform shoes - with a five inch heel.  Hardly practical for any job but worse when you are on a site tour with someone from H&S who has issues with high heeled shoes.  To be fair, said person was quite right and having been on my feet most of the day (normally I sit at my desk bare foot) by the time I got home, I was tired and had sore feet and really couldn't be bothered with dinner tonight.

The temptation was to just toast the remains of yesterday's sourdough and slather it with butter and jam (not all on the same area - I don't like the two things spread on top of each other - but of course, I had to try something new for the blog.

With a lack of vegetable matter in the fridge, I hit on the idea of a panzanella.  I've seen this made on the tellybox several times before and have always shied away from it because it involves stale, soggy bread.  I don't do soggy bread - I like mine crispy.  But the one thing I was pretty sure about was that this is one of those salads with a myriad of interpretations.  And I wasn't wrong.

In fact, Wikipedia (which of course is totally true) states that the modern version of panzanella is a salad of stale bread, soaked in water and dried and tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  It then carries on to list a whole raft of other things that you may include in a panzanella.  Stopping just short of throwing the kitchen sink in.  In fact, if you didn't know better and if you pick and choose correctly, you could actually end up with a Salad Nicoise instead. 

So, I set about making up my own panzanella.  I kept made sure I had tomatoes - which I'm actually beginning to like after all these years since I've forced myself to eat them whilst writing this blog.  And I did the bread thing, but instead of soaking it to bring it back to freshness, I actually baked mine to make croutons.  I'm sure a real Florentine traditionalist would have a dose of the vapours over that choice.  I then added some sald vegetables, fresh herbs and a chopped up pan-fried chicken breast.  With a lemon dressing (I left out the recommended garlic - mostly because I have a lot of meetings tomorrow), I had myself a really nice storecupboard salad (okay I keep my salad in the crisper in the fridge, but you know what I mean!).

And because the salad was vaguely virtuous and I've not eaten since breakfast, I think I fully deserve the last of my fully loaded brownies.

So this is how I made my salad for one.  Easily multiplied but not in this house as it contains vegetables.  And I'm the only one who eats them.

  • 1 ripe tomato, cut into eight chunks
  • 3 inch piece of cucumber, cut into chunks
  • 1 slice day old bread - sourdough or other rustic bread is best
  • 2 tsp chilli olive oil
  • 2 tsp plain olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 2 tsp Schwarz chargrilled chicken seasoning
  • small handful of fresh mixed herbs, chopped - I used basil and coriander
  • half a little gem lettuce (optional)

For the dressing
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the bread into 1/2 inch cubes and toss with the chilli olive oil.
Bake in an oven preheated to 220c/200c fan for 10-15 minutes until brown and crispy
Butterfly the chicken breast and sprinkle both sides with the seasoning.
Heat the 2tsp plain olive oil in a small frying pan and pan fry the chicken for about 10 minutes, turning once, or until fully cooked.  Remove from the pan and leave to rest for five minutes, then chop into chunks.
Meanwhile mix the cucumber, tomatoes and onion and herbs in a bowl.
Mix the dressing ingredients and season to taste.
Combine the chicken, croutons, vegetables and dressing.  Mix well then serve on the lettuce (if using).

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