If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you may have noticed my recent obsession with Jamie Oliver. Well, in actuality I’ve been fixated on his passionate vision for several years now but incidentally put it on the shelf for a couple dozen moons until a certain YouTube search for “Jamie Oliver 30-minute-meals” brought my attention to his freshly ripened FoodTube channel. I saw to it that I followed his channel immediately along with the others I had forgotten about.
I mention Jamie Oliver for several reasons: Firstly, he is an inspiration for me in the somewhat “dark times” of this generation. While nutrition has gradually crept its way back into our society (by “back” I mean that it has existed for years but for some reason modern society thinks it’s a “new” phenomenon), many people still don’t want to accept it, making excuses that it’s too expensive, too much work, too tasteless, too “good for you”… BUT . . . if you have the right person, the message can get out to these people.
I think Jamie Oliver is one of those people.
Now, yes, his British accent and metric measurements do imply that he is not from America. HOWEVER. That does not mean we can’t welcome him here with a warm handshake and a listening ear! I don’t know about you, but if Jamie Oliver knocked on my door, I would be overjoyed to speak with and learn from him! The reason I find it a joy to listen to him is because HE finds joy in what he does. If you happen to browse one of his videos (and you should!), watch his facial expressions, adjectives and figures of speech. I am convinced that he doesn’t go an episode without saying “beeyootiful” “brilliant” or “lovely” more than once. His enthusiasm makes me want to get on my kitchen and make something superb!
The awesome thing about many of Jamie’s recipes is that they are unique and PRACTICAL. I honestly think most cooking shows are boring because they always show you how to make the same thing: the best chocolate chip cookies, the best hamburger or the best fried chicken. Nevermind that half of their work is done for them in the “magic oven.” So much for cooking in real-time and giving actual, practical, everyday tips for making a meal. How about some seasoning tips to spice up a dish? Or some techniques to quicken your pace in the kitchen? Not to be bias or anything but I think Jamie Oliver tops every other Chef by a mile.
So his recipes are practical. Just like this one, labeled “Panzanella” or “Tuscan Salad.” It features colorful tomatoes, homemade vinaigrette, fresh basil and garlicly homemade, crunchy croutons. Takes about 15 minutes to make and can be made ahead of time, just add the croutons right before serving. I also modified this dish by adding avocado and lemon juice. I originally found this recipe on a Jamie Oliver 30-Minute-Meal video…. however I have been endlessly looking for that video since and cannot find it. Therefore, I will link the recipe from Jamie’s website. Here is my modification below:
PANZANELLA (TUSCAN SALAD)
- A loaf of stale French bread (a chewier bread would have been better such as sourdough or ciabatta), torn into small pieces
- Dried herbs: basil, parsley, garlic powder (about 2-3 TBS)
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 1-2 cups tomatoes of all shapes and colors, roughly cut (no need for symmetry or perfection)
- a pinch of salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup red onion, finely sliced
- 1 avocado, peeled and cubed
- 1-2 TBS red wine or white vinegar
- 3-5 TBS olive oil
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- fresh basil leaves
1. On a cookie sheet with a lip or in a baking pan, spread out the pieces of torn bread. Drizzle with olive oil and dried spices (crush them as you sprinkle them on the bread). Bake at 400°F or toast (in the toaster oven) for 10-15 minutes, turning over the bread occasionally to even the toasting.
2. While bread is crisping, combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and toss until coated. Let the veggies marinate in the lovely dressing while waiting for the bread.
3. As soon as bread is finished toasting, toss a handful into the salad (you may not need all of it but you can save the rest of the croutons for munching on ;-) ). Serve immediately and eat it all of it if you can as the soggy bread isn’t as tasty.