Bread, especially sourdough, is kind of a family legacy. We grew up with perpetual sourdough. Mom began baking when pregnant with me, and, for several years, plied her bread at the Brattleboro Farmer's Market out of the back of the 1970s Volvo with her spokesbabies. When I was about 5, she got a job baking in the kitchen at The Putney School, where she was encouraged to further develop her sourdough wiles. We also grew up in the back of that kitchen, warming ourselves against the huge, ceramic-lined ovens and sampling whatever came down the pipeline. As such, we grew up with the idea the sourdough wasn't a big deal. Folks' ability to normalize their childhood is remarkable sometimes. All that said, we only eat so much bread before it becomes almost unslice-ably stale. I guess it's better than it going moldy, with which you can do very little, but we store it at room temperature and not in plastic, which will get you stale over moldy most days. For better or worse, once bread has gone totally stale and lost all its moisture, it really won't go moldy.
So, we end up swimming in stale sourdough, and having to find creative ways to use it up outside of making breadcrumbs in quantities of epic proportion. Leading up to the end of summer, here's a quick favorite: Panzanella, a quick, Italian bread-tomato-basil salad full of simple, fresh, summery flavors that we always have trouble not picking to death before it makes it to its destination (the same can be said of another favorite stale bread usage, a savory bread pudding, but that's a story for another, cooler day).
- 1 loaf half-stale bread, large dice
- 2 med-large tomatoes, large dice
- 3-4 cloves garlic, slivered
- ¼-½ c. olive oil
- 1-2 tsp. salt (this is a good opportunity to break out the good salt)
- 3-4 stems (15-20 leaves) fresh basil, chiffonaded
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1 chile, seeded and minced
Panzanellavegan, about 20 min. start to finish