A small town may be better measured by the stamp of its spirit than the size of its population or the span of its geography.
There’s a small-town substance to this place we call home. It’s true for St Louis itself but especially the neighborhoods that readers of this paper know best, the ones of old trees and new cafés, strong schools and smart kids, low fences and good neighbors. (Does one begat the other?)
There’s the noon’n’six hymns from the bell tower at First Pres. And the prime-corner real estate of budding developers who operate summer’s Kool-Aid stands. And morning walkers who’d be strangers except that we know each others’ dogs by name. And a hush on holiday mornings, especially when flags ripple in remembrance. And the haunting horn of the train that rumbles through on Sundays around bedtime. And a familiar name in an obituary, the neighbor’s cousin, wasn’t he?, the one whose sister moved away but came back to raise her family and whose brother’s grandchildren are in Little League, now, with yours?
This is Kitchen Parade’s debut in the Webster-Kirkwood Times but my mom started the column for a small-town newspaper back in 1959.
I hope that it fast becomes a turn-to corner of this paper for both new and experienced cooks, one that feels like sharing a coffee (and a recipe!) over the kitchen table with an old friend.
Time-to-table: 15 minutes
- 1 clove garlic
- 4 slices hearty bread (stale bread works great)
- 4 perfectly ripe tomatoes
- ½ a red onion, diced fine
- ½ an English cucumber, diced fine
- 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped (in a rush? use minced garlic from a jar)
- 6 tablespoons capers
- About 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- About 2 tablespoons olive oil
- To taste, salt
- To taste, freshly ground pepper
Rub the garlic clove on the bread, then grill or broil both sides until lightly toasted. Tear into pieces.
Core and dice the tomatoes. (Optional: If tomato skins are unappealing, it takes only a few extra minutes to ‘blanch’ tomatoes. Just drop them into boiling water for a minute, then rinse under cold water until the skins peel off easily with a knife. For ‘all meat’ tomatoes, cut them in half, then remove and discard the seeds with a small spoon. Chop the remaining tomato meat.)
Combine the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, basil, garlic and capers in a large serving bowl. (Stop here if making in advance.)
Just before serving, stir in the bread, letting it soak up the tomato juice for a minute. Splash with the vinegar and olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
• Sept 2005 | This is Kitchen Parade's debut column in my very own 'hometown paper', the Webster-Kirkwood Times and its sister publication the South County Times. They're small-town weekly papers with a combined circulation of about 100,000.
• Aug 2006 | Here's reason to make extra panzanella, or a way to use up any leftovers. Just remove the bread, then toss into hot pasta with some Parmesan. Even my dad, who's not all that keen on pasta, says "This is a really refreshing way to eat pasta." I love it too!
• Aug 2008 | Substitute slices of leftover cornbread for the hearty bread. If you don't want to fire up the grill, just rub the bread with garlic, then fry until slightly crisp in a bit of bacon grease.
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© Copyright 2006 Kitchen Parade