They are going to be ripping open the walls of our house today in order to fix some sort of leakage problem in the apartment below ours.
Why is that relevant to last night’s dinner post?
Because around 6:30pm, while I chopped up cucumbers and whipped up a vinaigrette, there were 3 workmen and one very curious couple from downstairs sitting in our guest room trying to figure out the leakage.
Actually, that’s not true.
The truth is that there were not three work men sitting in the room. One was actually outside the room…hanging from the side of our apartment building, suspended only by an old rope, attached to another old rope, attached to his colleague’s belt loop (BELT LOOP, people!! you know, the thing that is supposed to just hold a belt, NOT a human being!!) dangling 100 feet above the ground.
Can I just say this? Holy Shit.
Oh, and that couple that I said was sitting in the guestroom with the workmen? Yea, they weren’t actually too interested in the details of the leakage that’s flowing into their apartment below. Instead they were wandering around our apartment, opening drawers, peaking in closets and asking how much everything costs and where we could have possibly bought it from.
I believe we met about 30 seconds before they asked us how much we pay for our apartment.
While I continued chopping in the kitchen, and sweating bullets for the man hanging out the window, they wandered in to poke around our appliances. Chris wandered in too every few minutes to give me updates on the leaking and to assure me that the dangling workman was still alive and dangling.
It felt like some sort of slapstick comedy routine-China style.
That I was neither surprised nor perturbed by the couple’s appraisals of all of our wordly possessions and the spiderman antics of the air-conditioner repair guys indicates to me that I seem to be adjusting well to life in China.
That or I’ve lost my American-style moral and societal compass. I’m not sure.
In any case, eventually everyone left and Chris and I finally sat down to enjoy one of the more pleasant meals we’ve made in awhile.
This panzanella recipe is super quick to pull together and requires no cooking which, of course, makes it perfect for summer time. We loved the acidity and the lightness and the different crunchy textures. The flavors were perfect though some of those tiny fresh mozzarella balls would have been perfection in this dish.
And the sour cherry pobbler? (Chris christened this dessert a ‘pobbler” for its pie crust on the bottom and crumble on the top). Awesome, just awesome.
Chris’ favorite dessert, hands down, is cherry pie. So when sour cherries came into season a few months ago, I made sure to pick up a bunch. I pitted them, froze them, and promptly forgot them, until yesterday when I tinkered with a great recipe, scaled things down and threw it all into a small piece of pyrex to bake for an 1 hour.
And it worked out better than I expected- it was fantastic. One of my new favorite desserts. The cherries were so tart and perfect with the sweet and nutty almond crumble on top. It was everything you could want in a dessert: balanced, sweet, tart, nutty with a hint of salty, savory goodness from the almonds and oats. It’s so good, I nearly ate it again for breakfast this morning. I’ll definitely be making this one again next time sour cherry season rolls around.
But of course, what’s a dinner at home without one more interruption?
Just as we were finishing the panzanella, the workmen came back to collect their things…and to tell us that they will be back for at least 4-5 hours of more work today which means I will be home all day again waiting for more workmen to come dangle outside our window.
Ah well, at least there is more cherry pobbler in the fridge…
- 1 small French bread or boule or about 3/4 of a baguette cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups) (If your bread isn’t rock hard and a few days old, consider toasting it with 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about ten minutes)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1-2 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick (we peeled ours, it’s safer here and I actually think I liked the cucumber better peeled)
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)
- 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
- 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped (we have no fresh basil yet so we used copious amounts of the dried stuff)
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- tiny fresh mozzarella balls would be WONDERFUL in this, we just didn’t have any.
For the vinaigrette:
- 2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 5 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar (we like things more acidic but feel free to dial this back to the 3 Tablespoons called for in the original recipe)
- 1/2 cup good olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. In a small bowl, whip up the vinaigrette and add the thinly sliced onions. Let sit while you continue to chop and prepare the rest of the ingredients. (This will pickle your onions slightly which, I think, renders them less pungent and more flavorful but you could skip this step if you like)
2. Cube up your stale bread and set aside or toast for ten minutes if using fresh bread
3. Chop and combine your vegetables and capers in a large bowl
4. Add bread cubes to vegetables and toss to combine. Stir in vinaigrette to coat everything and let stand for 15-30 minutes to allow flavors to blend before serving.
As usual, I followed Smitten Kitchen’s lead and adapted her recipe to fit the amount of cherries I had to work with. Since it would probably be silly to give you the instructions to make something that only fits in a very specific piece of pyrex, I’m just going to send her over to her recipe with my love and adoration.
If you must know though, I added some lemon juice and just a hint of almond extract to the cherry filling. Additionally, this crumb topping is to die for, its the perfect sweet foil to these super tart cherries. In fact, if you wanted to skip the pie crust on the bottom and just make this as a straight up cherry cobbler, I think that would be even more perfect.