Panzanella

I always knew I would go back to Seattle someday. I just didn’t know it would be so soon. Sean and I had planned to move away from Boston this year, but our list of possible cities included places like Burlington, Vermont and Denver, Colorado. As per usual, though, life interrupted my best laid plans without ceremony, reminding me yet again that I need to learn to go with the flow.

We were at Boston Logan airport, heading to Seattle for Christmas, when Sean got the call: Swedish Medical Center wanted to interview him for a position in their nursing residency program. He’d put in an application the week before, not thinking much of it. But the timing was perfect: While we were visiting my parents, he got all dressed up and went downtown to meet with the head nurses in both the cardiac and neurology units. A week later, when we were back in Boston, he spent time on the phone with several of his soon-to-be-peers on the cardiac floor. We figured we’d have time to kill after the interviews, before they made a decision. Sean put in applications for other programs and quickly got other interview offers. Then the call came, not a month but several days later: Swedish wanted to hire him for their August 2017 cardiac nursing residency class.

We went to a nearby bar to talk about the decision, but we both knew the answer: We were moving. The program was perfect for him and we’d get to live near my family. They’d offered him an excellent salary and relocation assistance. The job would be a perfect gateway into a masters in nursing anesthesia, which he wanted to pursue eventually. He loved Seattle. Two days later, during the first week of January, Sean called to accept the job.

I love Seattle, but I left on purpose. I left because I wanted to prove myself, to stand on my own two feet in the world and find out who I was under fire. For Sean, this move makes sense. But for me, moving back is bogged down by odd emotions of a homecoming filled with uncertainty — I can’t fathom how an adult version of my life in Seattle will look, and I’m deeply sad to be leaving Boston, the city that taught me how to live well and care for myself.

When I cook, I think. So lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this strange bittersweetness of leaving the life I’ve made for myself here, to walk back to the life I was born into there. I was making this Italian Bread Salad (Panzanella) earlier this week and I remembered something soothing: I used to hate salad. As a kid, I wouldn’t eat even a bite. But in my years of cooking, I’ve eventually discovered a way to make a salad that works for me (read: salads with lots of bacon, lots of cheese, huge chunks of bread and yummy dressing). I’m different than I was then, and Seattle is different than it was then. Since change is the only constant in life, I guess I’m just going to have to roll with it.


Panzanella

Makes 4 servings. Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (3-4 cups of bread is good — stale bread is fine for this, too.)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ripe tomato, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups arugula (spinach would also work)
  • 10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Fry up your bacon in a saute pan. Meanwhile, cut the bread into chunks. Once the bacon is done, remove it, then lower the heat and toss the bread into the pan with the grease. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss the bead in the pan for 10 minutes, until it’s brown and crispy.

Boil a small saucepan of water. When the water reaches a low boil (just above a simmer) drop 2 eggs into the pan (make sure they’re fully submerged) and set a timer for 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep all your veggies (tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, arugula) and combine them in a big bowl. Crumble the bacon into the bowl, and add the basil, too. Once the bread is toasted, add that to the bowl, too.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together all the vinaigrette ingredients: garlic, mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

When the eggs are done, submerge them in cold water to stop cooking, then peel them. Cut the eggs in half (the yolks should be a bit runny) and nestle them into the salad. Pour the dressing over the top. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

**This is one of those recipes that doesn’t keep well for the next day, so scale it up or down depending on how many people you’re feeding!

 

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