Ever since I got the Smitten Kitchen cookbook last year, I've wanted to make the insane recipe on the cover of that book. In fact, I promised myself I would during tomato season. On the cover are biscuits and colorful tomatoes generously strewn across the doughy stage in "come hither" like fashion. On top, is a dollop of what looks to be the lightest, most perfectly whipped goat cheese finished with a sprinkling of scallions. Tomato shortcakes! Deb Perelman is brilliant. And hilarious. And, she makes things like this from scratch. Blogging royalty and rightly so.
Back to these shortcakes. I made them after several failed attempts of wrangling all the appropriate ingredients. I'd have tomatoes and then I'd eat them. I'd get more tomatoes only to find the goat cheese depleted. I'd pony up to buy more goat cheese and wouldn't be able to find the right kind. Local producers and their small batches. Pfft.
All my tomato shortcake dreams came true around 3:30 in the afternoon last week. I know, it's a strange time to be all like "Hey! Let's eat shortcakes!" The Mister didn't complain. In fact, he sat the table and watched me roll out biscuits, smiling and nodding as I prattled on about who knows what. The pup stood in her usual spot, her glossy black coat leopard spotted with rogue flour dust.
The shortcakes, by the way, were fantastic. It was the best idea for capturing tomato salad juice since slurping from the bowl.
The second best idea might be what came next. I now had leftover biscuits and a mounting pile of cucumbers from my poor excuse for a garden which, save for the cucumbers, had produced little else. On the counter, too, were entirely way too many tomatoes, a direct result of an unbridled spree of tomato purchases, my way of overcompensating for all the dead and diseased tomato plants in my own garden. I decided to make panzanella, a bright and simple Old World salad inspired by necessity and shortcakes.
I don't know why, but repurposing those biscuits did something for me. I felt a sudden kinship with generations of old Florentine women for my waste-not want-not stroke of genius. I felt like the South was finally seeping into a small part of me because, biscuits. This was the most resourceful recipe I have created in a long while. I wanted to tell the whole village about this tiny feat of mine. I mean, if there were such a village.
Scallion Biscuit Panzanella
This recipe captures the final encore of summer and, personally, my favorite way to eat tomatoes- with just a little salt and pepper and good red wine vinegar. The biscuits, tossed lightly in olive oil, get all toasty and crumbly which makes for the best "bottom of the bowl" bite. This salad is best made with day old biscuits, but I'm sure you can do it with freshly made ones too.
Scallion Biscuits (from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook)
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 pieces
- 2 scalliions, sliced thin
- 1 cup whole milk
To make the biscuits:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder,salt) together. Add the butter to the dry ingredients and cut it into the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the scallions and then the whole milk. Stir until moistened. On a clean surface, pat the biscuit dough to 1-inch thickness and use a biscuit cutter to make six to eight 3-inch rounds. Reform scraps and continue cutting biscuits until most of the dough is used. Place the rounds on the parchment-line baking sheet, two inches apart. Bake until the biscuits turn a golden brown, about 15 minutes. Be sure to rotate the pan about halfway through to ensure even baking.
Scallion Biscuit Panzanella
- 1 bunch of basil, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Sea salt
- Assorted cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 medium cucumbers, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling on biscuits
- 4-5 biscuits, preferable one day old, torn into pieces
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a mortar and pestle, smash garlic with a pinch of sea salt. Add basil and continue to incorporate until you have a garlicky-basil paste. In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes and cucumbers and toss with basil paste. Add red wine vinegar, sea salt and pepper (to taste) and set aside. While the salad absorbs flavor, spread the biscuit pieces on a baking sheet and toss with a few good glugs of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place in oven 10-12 minutes until the biscuits are toasty and slightly browned. Keep an eye out, biscuits can turn and burn in a moment's time. Remove from the oven and let cool. While the biscuits are cooling, add the olive oil to the salad and toss well. Finally, add the toasty biscuit pieces to the salad and mix well.