Before I go any further I must draw your attention to an error in the email address for Marija - if you have sent your entries please make sure you have sent them to the correct address which is - palachinkablog AT gmail DOT com.
With the excessive heat of the last week, it's true to say that I certainly haven't felt like cooking, let alone cooking (almost) anything. At times I thought I was the object being cooked.
For as bad as it was, we luckily didn't endure 20+ hour blackouts, but my thoughts are currently with South Australians who are still suffering with high temperatures and don't look like getting that much relief until next Sunday!
So, with all this heat, staying cool is your prime motivator and that leads me back to cucumber. Its major component is water, which makes it so refreshing but helpfully it also contains some useful nutrients such as Vitamin A and C, Folate and Potassium.
The dish I've made is that peasant salad Panzanella - made with stale bread, which in this weather seems to be all bread. Some versions are more simpler than others but at their heart you'll find, rich ripe tomatoes and fresh basil along with good olive oil and vinegar. To give me that cooling crunch, cucumber becomes a welcome addition.
stale bread, ripped into pieces (I used ciabatta)
baby roma tomatoes, halved (use whatever is in season and ripe)
1 lebanese cucumber, halved and cut into bite sized pieces
½ small red salad onion, sliced finely
fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar or even verjuice
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Place the ripped bread in a large mixing bowl. Drop in the halved roma tomatoes - make sure you add any tomato juice that escaped while cutting, followed by the cucumber and onion.
Using your hands is best, give it a hearty toss through, giving the tomatoes squeeze to help release a little more juice.
Sprinkle over with some of the basil leaves - leave the small leaves whole but rip the large leaves for maximum flavour.
Drizzle over with a generous glug of olive oil and a little vinegar and toss again - taste and then adjust with salt and pepper and more vinegar if needed.
The beauty of panzanella is that is can be made well ahead of time to allow the flavours to develop and the bread to absorb that combination of tomato, olive oil and vinegar.
Tumble the panzanella onto a deep serving plate and give it a little extra drizzle of balsamic and sprinkle over with a few more basil leaves.
Enjoy it as is, or with poached egg or grilled meats for a complete meal with minimum fuss.