Leftover Panzanella Cake with a Fried Egg

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Resourcefulness is a quality that emerges gradually as you get more comfortable in the kitchen. At first, you might make a panzanella salad–with big chunks of toasted bread, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, a little anchovy, some basil, olive oil, and red wine vinegar–eat most of it and then throw the rest away because panzanella doesn’t really keep. That’s level one of being a cook. But to graduate to the next level, you should put the leftover panzanella in the fridge and figure out something to do with it the next day. Option 1? Blend it into a soup (why not? It has all the makings of a gazpacho and a tomato bread soup combined). I went for Option 2: frying it into a cake.

First of all, isn’t leftover panzanella pretty? This reminded me of a Kandinsky:

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See what I mean?

My thought was that because of all the bread, if I heated olive oil in a cast iron skillet and added the mixture–all the moisture squeezed out–it would fry up into a cake, sort of like a savory French Toast that I could finish in the oven. So out came the cast iron skillet, I brushed on olive oil, heated it on high, and then added the drained mixture:

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Confession: this didn’t go immediately as planned. There was so much liquid in there because of the tomatoes, there wasn’t really a sizzle, there was more of a burble. But I kept at at. Eventually, after 10 minutes or so, the liquid cooked away and then I started to hear some sizzling. At that point, I stuck the pan into a 425 oven and waited until the top was kind of dry and browning a bit.

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The real test was flipping it out of the pan. I used an offset spatula to make sure it would detach and then I carefully flipped on to my big green rubber cutting board:

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I think that looks pretty nifty!

The finally step was to top everything with a fried egg. And there it was: a resourceful breakfast made from something most people would throw away.

So this weekend, even if you don’t do it with panzanella, challenge yourself to turn some unexpected, seemingly unusable leftovers into breakfast. You’ll pat yourself on the back and then rub your tummy in delight.

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