Monday, September 29, 2008

On Cousins and Tomatoes

I have 25 aunts, uncles, first cousins, first cousins' spouses, and first cousins once removed here in Los Angeles. Most of these people are Persian, and yet, it's incredibly rare that we all go to the park together for a picnic. It's like we don't know we're Persian or something. So it was quite a miracle when, earlier this summer, all 25, plus myself and my own family and even a few relatives we brought in from Chicago, all alit upon unassuming Genesta Park in lovely Encino, California for a big old cousinpalooza; potluck picnic, card-playing, impromptu breaking out into song, softball, and in the great tradition of our people, tres leches cake for my mom's birthday. (Oh, and in the other great tradition of our people, a fight over pepperoni pizza.)

I've been really feeling this eat-local stuff lately, so I thought I would go ultra-local: My idea was to make a bread salad featuring tomatoes from Tapia Brothers, a little farm right in Encino with a market in front. It being the middle of summer, I thought I'd be able to get a variety - heirlooms, different colors, etc. When I got there though, for all the market's quaintness, they had one type of tomato and it was kind of ridiculously expensive. Hightailed it back to Whole Foods, who actually did have a good variety (including a basket of multicolored baby tomatoes -- perfect for this salad), and amazingly, at a reasonable price.

Some of the kids thought the pale yellow tomatoes were actually potatoes or some other random vegetable, but once they got past the initial shock, this simple salad was a hit with everyone from the oldest uncles to the tiniest cousins.

Tomato Bread Salad

Only make this salad with really good tomatoes, as it doesn't do much other than than showcase tomatoes (Note: even though it's technically fall, there are still pretty delicious tomatoes to be found around these parts). If you are not eating it immediately, store bread and salad separately, and toss together a few minutes before serving.

your favorite bread, cut into chunky cubes (A day or two old is fine.)
extra virgin olive oil
a variety of tomatoes, roughly diced
fresh minced garlic, to taste (I used only one clove, as too much raw garlic kind of grosses me out)
fresh basil, chopped
balsamic vinegar, the tiniest drizzle
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat broiler. Toss cubed bread with a little olive oil. Broil until toasted and slighty brown in parts. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, along with additional olive oil. A few minutes before serving, add bread to tomato mixture and toss to combine.


  1. Bread salad is one of my favorite dishes. I don't know why I don't make it more often. I should do that. Maybe right now.

  2. one day when you're older, noah, i'll tell you the epic tale of the day i discovered panzanella for the first time. ah, those were good times.