Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

Stale bread—it happens to the best of us. We buy loaf or two from our favorite farmers tailgate market bread vendors with visions of endless tomato sandwiches, but then life happens and the loaf goes stale before we’ve had a chance to finish it. Enter panzanella, a fantastic vehicle for reviving stale bread—that also happens to celebrate summer produce available at markets now. 

The constants for this versatile Italian salad are dried-out bread, ripe tomatoes, plenty of torn basil, and a tangy vinaigrette made from either red or white wine vinegar. From there, you can vary the ingredients to fit what you have on hand. Once assembled, panzanella can sit for hours, making it ideal for sending to school in a lunchbox or packing for a quick bite at your desk. 
You can simply use old bread, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces. But we like to toast it as well, which helps it keep its shape and crunch a bit better, even as it absorbs the dressing. (This also means you can satisfy a panzanella craving without waiting for your bread to go stale, if need be.) Focaccia, available from High Top Bread Company at East Asheville and Weaverville markets, is especially delicious. 
Cucumbers add a nice crunch to panzanella, but you could also add sweet peppers, corn kernels, or summer squash. For added sweetness, toss in sliced peaches, figs, or event ground cherries. Ground cherries, a tiny relative of the tomatillo with a slightly tropical flavor, are available from Bear Necessities Farm at ASAP and West Asheville markets. You can keep your panzanella vegan or add cheese. Lane in the Woods Farm and Creamery has fresh mozzarella at East Asheville and Weaverville markets right now.
Or try fattoush, a Lebanese version. Instead of stale bread, use toasted pita or flatbread (get some from Hominy Farm at River Arts District Farmers Market). In addition to tomatoes and cucumbers, add a hardy salad green like romaine or purslane. Use thinly sliced red onion or scallions and replace the basil with mint. Season with cumin, cinnamon, and sumac, if you can find it (it’s a tart, lemony spice). For the dressing, use lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, and olive oil.
At farmers markets now you’ll also find apples, berries, melons, eggplant, okra, potatoes, winter squash, beans, salad greens, mushrooms, and much more. Markets are also stocked with farm-fresh eggs, cheese, pastries, drinks, and prepared foods. There are more than 100 farmers tailgate markets throughout the Appalachian Grown region. Find them, as well as farms and other local food businesses, in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide.

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