Monday, August 23, 2010

A Summer for Eating Outside

Every once in a while, just to make sure it's really summer, I eat a meal outside. When the air feels warm and non-air conditioned, and a breeze carries the scent of grilled meat, and I can sit on my balcony and stare down at the neighbors who camp on their porch all weekend as though we lived in the deep south - then I know it's summer.

This summer I've eaten lunch on my balcony every weekend. I've eaten rapidly melting mint chocolate chip ice cream while walking down the street, or frozen custard while sitting outside the frozen custard shop watching people at the walk up window with their dogs in tow. I've eaten outside but inside my parents' enclosed patio with the wind blowing through the screen but the bugs staying thankfully in the yard. I sat on a deck drinking beer and grilling hamburgers in Virginia on July 4th, and the next day I squatted on a blanket eating chicken salad and veggies and dip while listening to the North Shore concert band in Illinois.

It's been a summer for eating outside, where the food tastes so fresh, it's like it grew out of the ground just a few feet from where I sit.

Last night I sat outside again, at a picnic table eating fresh tomatoes. If you're going to eat anything outside, it should be a ripe, summery tomato. It should be bloody red, juicy, topping sandwiches or layered with fresh mozzarella or eaten like an apple, out of hand. Or best of all, toss it with some toasted Italian bread cubes, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper for a tomato-bread salad. And eat it fast, before the bugs or the end of summer get you.

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) by Emeril


  • 1/2 French bread loaf cut into 1" cubes
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chiffonade of basil
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 Italian Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/2 " slices


For croutons: In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. When smoking hot, add the bread cubes and fry until golden, about 3-4 minutes. Stir often to prevent from sticking. Remove from pan and drain on a paper-lined plate. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the remain ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble, toss the fried bread with the other ingredients and place on a platter. Can be made ahead of time, by keeping the bread separate until serving.

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