Special of the Day: Heirloom Tomato Fest

09 Oct Special of the Day: Heirloom Tomato Fest

Panzanilla Salad

A recent Sonoma getaway with my mom included an all-day adventure led by our gracious hostess Sally Ewald who toured us all around, showing off the best of the area’s food and wine.  A highlight for me was spending extended time at the Santa Rosa Farmers Market, strolling past booth after booth of fresh seasonal produce.

Perhaps the showiest and most impressive display was the artful array of over 20 varieties of heirloom tomatoes one grower had painstakingly sorted into bins and lined up, creating a rainbow of bright beauties to behold.

Nothing could be more seasonal and local to enjoy for lunch than the BLT from the Green Grocer stand, comprised of freshly baked whole grain bread, homemade pesto, fresh avocado, heirloom tomato slices, bacon and arugula, all sourced from the market, stacked high and lightly grilled to perfection. What a treat!

Tempted as I was, I knew taking home tomatoes in my suitcase was a disaster waiting to happen, so I settled for a photo with hopes that I could find heirloom tomatoes locally once I got home and began dreaming up a recipe to share with all of you.

How grateful I was to round the corner of the produce section at 2Js to discover an impressive collection of colorful heirloom tomatoes in shades of yellow, orange, red, purple and green right here in Great Falls. They were just what I needed for the fresh and fabulous Panzanilla Salad I was hoping to make.

A Tuscan salad made with crusty bread, fresh mozzarella and ripe tomatoes, Panzanilla Salad is super fresh and simply delicious, a wonderful way to enjoy heirloom tomatoes this time of year.

Bringing you home a taste of the wine country, I give you this week’s Special of the Day: Heirloom Tomato Fest and recipe for Panzanilla Salad. Enjoy!

Panzanilla Salad

Panzanilla Salad

(serves six)

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 slices sourdough bread or other crusty bread, cut into bite-sized cubes

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar


Freshly ground pepper

3 heirloom tomatoes, seeded and diced

½ cup fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized cubes

2 tbsp. fresh basil sliced into thin strips

Additional fresh basil leaves for garnish

Heat 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil in medium sized sauté pan over medium heat until hot.

Add garlic and bread cubes and sauté until bread cubes are golden brown, stirring to prevent burning.

Transfer bread cubes to paper towels to drain.

In a medium glass mixing bowl, whisk together 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Add diced heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

(Can be made ahead up to this point, covered and refrigerated.)

When ready to serve, stir to mix, add bread cubes and toss lightly.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Serve immediately. (Bread cubes will get soggy if you let them sit too long.)


Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.


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