I love to travel. In a perfect world, I would be constantly travelling, visiting a different country every few weeks and experiencing everything the world has to offer. Of course certain realities (such as the endless amount of money this lifestyle would require) means that this will always remain a dream, but I still try and travel as much as possible. In a break between my university studies, I toured Europe for a few weeks with two of my best friends. We visited my sister in London, travelled to Paris, and spent 10 days in three cities throughout Italy. While I adored Paris, and could picture myself living in London (I still can in fact), my favourite country that we visited is Italy. I have never eaten so much pizza, pasta or gelato in all my life. We lived on little else, and a day did not go by without the delicious Italian flavours of tomato, basil and mozzarella (and of course a visit [or two] to a gelataria). This trio of ingredients has stuck with me as some of my favourite flavours, useful in everything from pizza toppings to a wonderfully simple salad.
I recently rediscovered panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad, thanks to my sister. It quickly became a staple in our house in the last few weeks of the summer, and the ingredients always changed based on what was in our fridge. However it always contained those wonderful Italian base flavours of tomato, basil and mozzarella. It is one of those brilliant dishes that you can throw together in less than 20 minutes when you get home from work, but add a glass of wine and some napkins and it feels like a special meal. This delicious fresh salad is my last hurrah to summer. While I will miss the warm and sunny days, I think I will always be a winter girl at heart. Bring on the coats and scarfs.
A quick note on the title ingredient here – mouse melons. Probably the most adorable vegetables (well, technically fruit) you will ever see. They are very crisp, slightly lemony cucumbers, but look like tiny little watermelons. I honestly had to buy them for the cute factor alone. I think I only saw them at our local market once or twice, so grab them quickly if you see them.
There are no amounts listed for these ingredients – just throw in as much as you want for as many people as you are serving!
slightly stale sourdough
ball of fresh mozzarella
handful of baby spinach (or other leaves)
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
Chop or tear the sourdough into small chunks and toss in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil.
Tumble onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toast until golden and crisp.
While your bread is baking, chop up the tomatoes and mouse melons.
Tear the mozzarella and basil into pieces.
Toss all of the prepared ingredients together in a big bowl, with an extra drizzle of olive oil and a splash of good balsamic vinegar.
Divide between plates and enjoy!