A few years ago, my sister and I were walking out of a spa visit in Harvard Square when we happened upon a farmer’s market. We both oohed and aahed over the tomatoes and other wonderful items on display, and she suggested that I put together some of the items to make a panzanella.

Panzanella???, I responded. She then went on to explain that it’s a bread salad that can be used to showcase some of the wonderful seasonal items you can get during the summertime. Of course, with kiddos that love bread, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese, this is a great dish all year ’round. You can use this as a light entrĂ©e or as a side dish, and it’s easy enough to make in bulk to have as a side for parties. It’s also easily scalable; if you don’t want a lot, just get a smaller bread and half everything else (one pint of cherry tomatoes instead of a quart, 1/2 lb of mozzarella instead of a full pound, etc.).

Note also that you can substitute chopped tomatoes for the cherry tomatoes and cubed mozzarella cheese for the mozzarella pearls; I use them because they’re time-savers. For the cherry tomatoes, I strongly recommend either doing this when they’re in season or getting some of the NatureSweet ones; flavorless cherry tomatoes do nothing but add color to the dish, so you want ones with flavor.

Given that the flavors here all pretty much stand on their own, also make sure that you’re using an olive oil that you really LIKE. We tend to use Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, if that’s any help.


OM NOM all year long, but especially in the summertime!

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cooking Time: 0! None! Zilch! (yeay)

Serves: 6 as a main dish, more as a side dish


1 loaf fresh ciabatta bread (or other similarly large, crusty bread)

2 pints (1 quart) cherry tomatoes (or 4-5 large tomatoes, cubed in 1/2″ cubes)

1 english cucumber

1 lb mozzarella pearls (or 1 lb mozzarella, cubed in 1/2″ cubes)

8-10 leaves fresh basil

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

Make it Happen

1. Chop the bread into roughly 1/2″ cubes. Place them in a large serving bowl.

2. Wash the cherry tomatoes and dry them carefully. (I use a paper towel). Add the dry tomatoes to the bread and stir to combine. (Drying them prevents them from turning the bread into a soggy mess.)

3. Wash and chop the cucumber into 1/4 – 1/2″ cubes. Add them to the bowl and stir to combine.

4. Separate the mozzarella pearls and add them to the serving bowl, stirring to combine.

5. Wash, dry and roughly chop the basil leaves until they are in no more than 1/4″ pieces. Add them to the serving bowl and stir to combine.

6. Drizzle some of the olive oil over top of the mixture and stir to combine; add the remainder of the oil and stir to combine further.

{At this point, you can season further and serve or cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator, to bring out at a later point in the day. This is a perfect item to prepare in advance of a party. If you want to do most of the prep in advance of a big meal without taking up space in the fridge, simply move the mozzarella to the LAST step.}

Adventures in CSA (year 2 week 12): MYO box, part 3

Sometimes, even a weekly ordering process for a CSA can go awry…like when your husband thinks you ordered a box that you didn’t think you got real confirmation that people would eat it, so when you tell him that morning that you didn’t order a box for evening pick-up, you get a look as though you just shot Bambi’s mom. Oh great.

On the plus side, having the farmstand chock-full of things that are tasty to eat makes it somewhat easier, and the list for this week’s box at least inspired dh to pick up broccoli. The funny thing with broccoli is that I can’t stand it. I don’t care HOW you prepare it, I can’t deal with the stuff. Anything cruciferous just rubs me the wrong way, and broccoli is no exception to that rule. I can’t even stand the smell of it. Guess dh will make it with dinner on Monday night, while I’m out at a wake.

So, short story long, this is a MYO box week for us. It mostly stuck to our rules: it was all local and it was less than $22. However, it’s six items, and there’s nothing “new” to us. I’m okay with that, though; with the marathon walk less than 24 hours away, my focus is a little fuzzy right now.

Without further ado, this week’s tastiness:


Adventures in CSA year 2 week 12

Red + Green + Multicolored Cherry Toms = HAPPY ME


Year 2 – Summer Week 12
Farmstand Unit Price (per lb) Farmstand Total Item Cost
Tomatoes 2.26 $2.99 $6.76
Macintosh Apples 2.46 $1.49 $3.67
Broccoli 1.26 $1.99 $2.51
Corn (ears) 4.00 $0.69 $2.76
Wax Beans 0.83 $2.99 $2.48
Cherry Tomatoes (pint) 1.00 $3.50 $3.50
Farmstand Total Cost $21.67

Sure, it’s not the most original box out there, and the items are ones that are fairly “safe” – we know we like them (well, all except me and that dang broccoli), and we know the kids will reliably eat everything. Still, it’s nice that we’re in the habit of doing this, since it means that we have locally produced fruit and veg in the house. While the local grocery stores have caught up in recent weeks and are now carrying more local items (radishes, peppers, cucumbers, etc.), it’s nice that we’ve been eating local all summer long. Better still, we’ve been contributing back to our own town.

Now, with all the fuss about organic vs conventional farming, I do have to say that our farm is not labeling their stuff as organic. I asked them about this a while back, when Local Kitchen was coming for a visit and needed to know if she could obtain some kind of food organically from a nearby farm. Turns out that they do use some measure of pesticides. HOWEVER, they assured me they use the minimum they can get away with. So, there’s that. Before picking organic vs conventional, I’d suggest trying to examine local vs non-local and start simply. And with that, I’ll climb off my soapbox and start gearing up for my walk.

If you’re available for a few minutes on Sunday, I’d love a few tweets of support to me and dh. Follow me at @CrunchyMetroMom on Twitter and shout out early and often! I’ll be tweeting as we walk. And walk. And walk. And since I raised enough money to make a new personal best, I’m itching to get out on the course and get another 26.2 under my belt!

Adventures in CSA (year 2 week 11): Sweet Summer Savings

This was probably the sweetest box we’ve had all season: peaches, cherry tomatoes, corn…all items loaded with natural sweetness that can be eaten with a minimum of preparation. It makes me really sad that the summer is coming to an end. We always get sad when the farm is down to the last corn of the season, and Labor Day means that point isn’t far away. On the other hand, that means we’re getting closer to apple-picking season, which means cider donuts, which means {drool}…

Here’s how this week’s box came out: (which, by the way, was BRILLIANTLY)


Year 2 – Summer Week 11
Grocery Store Unit Price
(per lb)
Grocery Store Total Item Cost
Tomatoes 1.93 $3.99 $7.70
Sweet Yellow Peppers 1.27 $3.99 $5.08
Arugula (bunch) 1.09 $1.19 $1.30
Peaches 1.03 $2.99 $3.08
Corn (ears) 6.00 $0.60 $3.60
Radishes (bunch) 1.00 $1.99 $1.99
Yellow Squash 0.68 $1.49 $1.01
Cherry Tomatoes (pint) 2.00 $3.99 $7.98
Grocery Store Total Cost $31.75
Year 2 Summer Week 11 Savings (Deficit) $9.75


I was approached by one of my friends who reads this blog, commenting (jokingly) on how I’m encouraging her to bust her budget by buying local. Boxes like the one above certainly show that you can get your fruit/veg via a CSA and save some serious dough. In her case, her attempts to buy organic meat are probably what are causing her to hit her budget so hard. That said, there are meat CSAs (for those who don’t mind buying in quantity) and you can purchase some amounts of organic meat for lower cost through warehouse clubs. Even Whole Foods has sales on organic meats – so there are options. But eating meat will definitely beat up on your budget, even if you’re not buying organic. Going organic will only add to that. As an omnivore, I certainly support the idea of trying to find ways to make buying local and organic work for you, no matter whether you’re buying fruit, veg, meat or any combination thereof.

Definitely explore the options. If nothing else, this whole exercise (year 1 through today in year 2) shows that it isn’t all about spending more to get locally grown produce. If anyone has any meat CSA experience they want to chime in on, please do share!