Serendipity can happen in the kitchen, with a surprising but happy-making combination of flavors, or it can happen elsewhere, with a surprising but happy-making combination of people. With Crackerman, I got both.
Stefan and I met to discuss their crackers, which they’re just launching, and wound up talk about everything — global cuisine, literature, whack doodle ideas about nutrition, food writers we like, how who you are plays out in what you cook (he’s German, I’m mongrel, he purees, I’m into crunchy) and what we believe in. For Stefan, that’s science, his sense of smell and pheromones. How could I not like the guy? It was one of those wonderful coming togethers, meeting for the first time yet feeling we’d been friends for ages, realizing we were of the same tribe.
It was after we spoke I finally tried the crackers — big sheets of golden seed-flecked goodness, organic, of little yeast, big crunch, and big flavor, great to crack apart, hence the name (I’d figured they’d named themselves after the Stone Temple Pilot song Crackerman) and excellent as dip conduits. Crackerman also makes a kickass organic whole bread, chewy and seed-studded, earthy and honest.
Right now, Crackerman crackers and bread are sold online and at Miami farmers markets. Stefan and Theresa are working to get their products into local markets and beyond. I hope they make it. Of all the products I get pitched, this was the softest pitch with the biggest payoff. Crackerman crackers and bread are as real deal and delicious as the couple who makes them. I love when this happens.
To mark the occasion, I wanted something that showed off the coming together of bread and vegetables. It could be a sandwich, no brainer-y enough, but I wanted more, a melding of the two, an effortless affinity. So here it is, a Tunisian bread and pepper and tomato salad, freewheelingly adapted from Paula Wolfert’s outstanding The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. The Italians do something similar called Panzanella. It’s popular in the Middle East made with pita and feta, tomatoes and cukes, in which case it is called fattoush (eating too much gives you one, says a punish friend).
I really like the combination of flavors in this salad, especially with Crackerman bread. Puffy grocery store bread won’t do for this. It sops up the vegetable juices and turns immediately to mush. You want bread with oomph and chew, produce deliciously full-flavored and ripe.
This substantial salad must be started a day ahead, but time does the work, not you. It’s best served not straight from the fridge but edging towards room temperature. This serves 4, but you can double or triple it for a party. It’s luscious, durable and looks impressive as hell.