I did it! I cooked*! Well, almost...

My panzanella was a success! Even more rewarding (for me) was that I didn't need to follow a recipe exactly; instead I read three and combined by favorite parts of each. I even diced up all the ingredients on my own! (Yes - I do realize this could be the accomplishment of a motivated 10 year old - but cut me some slack. I wasn't remotely interested in real food or cooking until after I turned 30.) 

My panzanella is combination of Ali Benjamin, Alton Brown and the pin I found online. Two called for bacon, one did not. Two called for stale bread, one called for toasting. One added chili peppers, two did not. None of them suggesting adding dijon mustard to the dressing; I figured that out on my own. 

This is what I did:
• Cubed two cups of baguette then spread them on a pan, drizzled them with olive oil and put them into the oven for 10 minutes until hard/crispy.
• While the bread was in the oven I: diced one shallot, put it into a cup of red wine vinegar, added a spot of dijon mustard and whisked. Next I cubed two avocados, a cucumber, a variety of tomatoes and combined them all in bowl. For a little heat I added half of one jalapeno. 
• When the bread came out of the oven it moved it to a Pyrex bowl to cool. Next I heated up the cast iron skillet that still contained bacon fat from our morning's breakfast. Once the bacon fat was hot I spooned out three tablespoons and drizzled them over the bread and tossed. 
• To the bread bowl I added the tomato mix and an appropriate amount of dressing. I mixed it all up with my hands and then put one and half handfuls into each dinner bowl. The only thing I would do differently next time is not mix in the avocado because it made the dish look green and mushy. Instead, I would add the avocado at the end as a garnish. 

It was so delicious!! And perfectly summer. I hope you try it yourself!
XO -
Cullen (the one who obviously doesn't create the beautiful meals you see on this blog). 

*According to Oliver "adding heat" is a core part of cooking. Everything else is just "combining ingredients". But I'm okay with that. Baby steps!