After I graduated from college, it took me six months to find a full-time job. Since I enjoy having money in my bank account and paying my bills on time, there was really no choice but to take on some other jobs while I did the whole resume-submission thing. First, I babysat this terror of a four-year-old. That lasted two weeks. For a while, I temped in NYC, which was great…minus the whole commuting-in-from-central-Jersey thing and the resulting 13-hour days. That lasted about a month. The one job that actually stuck was waitressing at a bar in my hometown.
One of my favorite things about that job was the hilarious things people do, say, and ask for. Like the guy who came in with his wife twice a week and brought his own jar of Old Bay seasoning to sprinkle on his fries, or the woman who refused to eat the sandwich I brought her because she believed that the Fed Ex man who happened to be making a delivery at the time had crept into the kitchen and “done something” to her meal. Something unspeakable.
People. Are. Crazy.
One of the things that always cracked me up was the vain attempt to be healthy while eating at this bar. Not that the food here was any worse for you than the vast majority of restaurant food, but really, if you’re going to get a Buffalo Chicken Finger SALAD, you might as well just call a spade a spade and go with the plain old Buffalo Chicken Fingers. I mean really, who are you trying to kid? The bed of iceberg lettuce underneath those breaded, deep-fried hunks of chicken does not a healthy meal make.
But I understand the dilemma, and I felt it last night when I needed to eat something healthy and I wanted to eat something…else. The answer was an impromptu panzanella full of ciabatta bread croutons and roasted eggplant and zucchini.
Also known as a compromise.
4 cups cubed day-old bread (I used ciabatta, but almost any good bread would do)
1 Italian or Asian eggplant (not the enormous ones), sliced thinly
½ zucchini, sliced thinly
¼ large onion, either sliced in very thin strips or diced (I used a Vidalia, but I would’ve preferred a red one)
1 ear cooked corn, sliced off of the cob
¼ large red bell pepper, either sliced in very thin strips or diced
Several tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spread the cubes of bread evenly across the sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir them around to get them all lightly coated. Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. They’re done when they’re very crunchy and lightly browned.
Line another baking sheet with foil and spread out the zucchini and eggplant. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, then turn the slices and repeat. Bake while the bread is baking, for 15 – 20 minutes.
When the eggplant and zucchini are done, let them cool enough to handle, then slice the rounds in half. Mix in a big bowl with the rest of the ingredients and toss.
I had some olive oil and red wine vinegar ready to go in case it needed something extra, but because I olive-oil-salt-and-pepper-ed my way through the whole thing, it didn’t really need anymore at the end. Of course, Boyfriend and I are both salad purists and aren’t big on dressing, so if you want to dump some oil and vinegar on it, then we’ll just agree to disagree.