Panzanella: Part of a Well Balanced Wardrobe

I ran home from work tonight. I do it a couple times a's approximately 9-10 miles and by the time I reach the front door I am exhausted and STARVING. I figured that tonight my husband would have started dinner. Unfortunately I was wrong and given the fact that I haven't grocery shopped this week (I know...gasp!) I knew that our fridge was spotty. I am decent at improvising on the quick (even though I was suffering from runner's brain = cloudy, incoherent thoughts). After looking thru the pantry and fridge and gaining an understanding of our low inventory, I knew what needed to be done.....

...tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, cucumbers, green bell pepper and a hearty baguette (in the freezer) were all waiting for me to create. I knew we had fresh basil in the garden and of course plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. All ingredients for.......PANZANELLA!!! I love the way this salad is quick, easy, and covers all things "recovery" to re-energize my body after a long run - protein, carbs, and yummy fresh veggies that will help with muscle repair. Also this is a great last minute dinner or side to your dinner that you can use as a spring board for much more - add shrimp or canned tuna in oil....olives...different herbs.....other veggies! It's truly a "kitchen sink" kind of dish! So as I always say - MAKE IT YOUR OWN!

Kiki's Quick Panzanella:

(serves two)

1 large cucumber (or a couple small ones)

Grape Tomatoes or cherry ones (we pulled a couple out of our garden tonight, yum!)

1 Green Bell Pepper

Basil - a healthy handful

Mozzarella balls, quartered

1/2 a baguette, baked in the oven until nice and crispy ( I always buy these, cut them in half and freeze it - so quick to thaw and its accessible in a pinch)

Sea Salt/Pepper to taste

EVOO/Balsamic Vinegar

Directions: slice and quarter the cucumber, same with the tomatoes (enough so you equal parts of each). Cut the green bell pepper and throw that in the mix too. Chop the basil, toss in. Add the mozzarella balls. Pull the bread out of the oven and cube it. Don't forget the crumbs too - they add texture and who doesn't like them?? A couple nice turns on the ground sea salt and pepper. Mix all of the ingredients until you have a well rounded assortment. Pour olive oil all over, probably about 2 tablespoons (?) and same with Balsamic (except a little less). Mix again. Add a little more salt/pepper. Taste. Add a little more of the EVOO and Balsamic until the bread has soaked up all the goodness and is a little soft on the inside, but still crusty on the outside. YUM. Serve in a bowl with a BIG TALL GLASS OF WATER (or wine if you didn't' run 10 miles like I did - haha).

I had to include pictures of my two sous-chefs (Milly on the left and Barley on the right)....well let's face it the only reason they were right by my side is because they love tomatoes more than I do!!! Don't worry - they didn't go hungry!