Remember last Thursday? It was hot. Fry eggs on the hood of your car hot. Lose five pounds just walking to your mailbox hot. Melt the make-up off my face hot.
Too hot to cook hot. On this kind of day, in the world before air conditioning when I was a kid, my mother would buy a half gallon carton of color-not-found-in-nature neon orange sherbet, scoop it into bowls, cut up some fresh fruit, pour it over the top and call it dinner. Didn’t fly for my father, and it wouldn’t fly for my family.
My mother had one thing right. To keep cool, the “no cook rule” is a good one. Fortunately, there are better choices than sherbet and fruit. Panzanella is one of them. It is a recipe based on circumstance: heat, long work days, left over bread, a bounty of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers from the garden. Knee-high basil plants that proliferate in the dead of summer, heavy with bright great leaves, begging to be cut so as to not go to seed. Sassy red onions, fruity olive oil and tangy red wine vinegar from the pantry. And that’s pretty much it. Panzanella is a bread and fresh vegetable salad, well dressed in a tart vinaigrette.