One of the simple pleasures I enjoy is getting in the kitchen and "concocting".  Although my website is full of recipes, I encourage others to prepare "no-recipe" dishes. It's all about getting in the kitchen and trusting your taste buds and your kitchen skills. Winging it in your kitchen is actually a great way to improve your kitchen skills.    

Get in the kitchen and "concoct" a dish is exactly what I was asked to do during a recent food styling workshop with the great folks at  It always helps to cook on the fly when you're ingredients are harvested from the height of the summer bounty, and sourced from New York City's finest green market.  Oh, and did I mention that we had a commercial kitchen at our disposal along with an endless supply of cookware and spices at the Institute of Culinary Education? Yes, it was dreamy.  

Each group was asked to create a salad using the ingredients provided.  Our group, which included Dina Deleasa-Gonsar, decided to forgo the greens and create Panzanella.  Panzanella is a Tuscan salad that makes great use of day old bread as it is combined with a base of tomatoes.  It can also include other ingredients such as basil and onions, and is usually dressed in oil and vinegar.  The following photos will walk you through our morning of "concocting" as we created our Panzanella.

We began by tearing our rustic bread into bite-size pieces.  The pieces were given a quick toss with olive oil and kosher salt then transferred to a heated skillet.  The toasted bread was charred in spots for a flavor hit in our salad. 

Our tomatoes were cut into bite size pieces.  Two varieties of green beans were trimmed and given a quick plunge in boiling water until tender. 

Our prepped salad ingredients were combined with two varieties of basil and thinly sliced red onions.  The vibrant colors were beautiful even before we dressed the salad.

The dressing was created in a blender.  Our ingredients included red wine vinegar, half of a shallot, 2 cloves of garlic, fresh thyme leaves, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. A quick whirl blended the ingredients.  Olive oil was added in a steady stream and blended until emulsified.  The dressing was tossed with the salad ingredients, and was devoured in a matter of minutes.