Even if you’re doing your best to cook root-to-leaf and nose-to-tail, there are probably still some edible bits you’re missing. Every other Sunday, we'll focus on one overlooked scrap, and show you how to turn what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure.
Today: The best summery use for stale bread since panzanella.
When it comes to comfort food, it’s hard to beat a loaf of freshly baked bread. It doesn’t get much better than the first slice—still a little warm, because no one can stand to wait until it’s fully cooled—spread with a thick layer of sweet, creamy butter that starts to melt on contact. But even when we don’t eat the loaf as quickly as we should, and it becomes hard and dry, that bread still has the power to nourish us.
By now I think we all know that stale bread is one of the best so-called “scraps” to have on hand in the kitchen. The easiest way to put it to good use might be to make breadcrumbs, but there are a number of other things we like to use stale bread for, too. But sometimes dishes with stale bread can feel heavy, the types of food that you want to eat in cooler weather while cuddled up under a blanket.
The solution is to use stale bread in a two-bite appetizer that's perfect for eating on a rooftop with a glass of sparkling wine.
More: Sometimes we even need to make bread stale on purpose. Here’s how.
When the darlings of spring produce are on the way out and summer’s heavy hitters—corn and tomatoes—have yet to arrive, it can feel like an in-between time at the market. Keep your eyes out for pepperoncini (or other small peppers): Their diminutive size and sunny shade of yellow-green is sure to distract you from the fact that asparagus is nearly gone. (Recipe author Hallie Meyer says pepperoncini were one of the first summer crops to arrive after the late May fava craze when she was working on Casa L Orto's terraced farms on Italy's Amalfi Coast. If only we were all lucky enough to be eating seasonal produce in southern Italy.)
Hallie's Stuffed Pepperoncini are filled with salty pancetta and anchovies, creamy mozzarella, and fresh basil—along with stale bread. They will win over everyone, even heat-averse people who will initially shy away, thinking these are jalapeño poppers. If you can't find fresh pepperoncini, any other small mild peppers will work, like mini bell peppers or shishitos.
Hallie’s goal of bringing delicious food to people goes far beyond sharing great appetizers, though. She and two other fellow students at Yale have co-founded Umi Kitchen, a marketplace and delivery service that connects talented home cooks with families and individuals who want wholesome, home-cooked meals delivered right to their door. Currently, they are working to build a food community in their local New Haven area before expanding elsewhere.
Makes 30 stuffed pepperoncini or 10 stuffed bell peppers
About 30 pepperoncini (or any small fresh pepper) or 10 bell peppers
3/4 cup fisherman's bread (or dry stale bread), crumbled into pieces
1/2 cup water
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup cubed pancetta
1/2 cup diced onion
5 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
Handful torn basil leaves
3/4 cup cubed fresh mozzarella
Salt and pepper, to taste
Know of a great recipe in the Food52 archives that uses scraps (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments!
First photo by James Ransom, second photo by Alpha Smoot