Tag Archives: panzanella

When Mana Shim of the Portland Thorns Came Over to Make Salad and I Force-fed Her Gazpacho

So this funny thing happened.

I got a direct Twitter message last August from @meleanashim: “Will you teach me how to cook?! :)”

I’m not kidding! Look! It really happened!

Mana Twitter. MomsicleBlog

You know who Meleana Shim is…. (Hint: She’s a midfielder for the Portland Thorns who scored five goals last year, and she mostly goes by Mana.) Here she is, being force-fed gazpacho.

Meleana Shim eats gazpacho. MomsicleBlog

(If you don’t know who the Portland Thorns are, then go educate yourself here and here, because I’m not going to tell you everything a person like yourself, who is smart and delightful and progressive, should already know.)


I love the Thorns, and I’m gullible, and I have a lot of enthusiasm for cooking.  So after receiving this Twitter message, I jumped out of my seat and thought:

Maybe someone hacked Mana Shim’s account and is playing a cruel joke on me. Who could it be? Family? Angry birds? Baby Woww? (He’s strangely brilliant–like all two year olds–with technology.) 

And then I thought:

She used an exclamation point AND a smiley face: We are TOTALLY going to get along!! 

(I abuse the exclamation point and smiley face to the point that they practically hang around my head in a perpetual cloud of amped-up emotion.)

@evelynshoop @meleanashim. MomsicleBlog

Sometimes my life is a surrealist painting, and this happy interaction was adding some new melting clocks to the scene.

There are a lot of Portland chefs and home cooks whose ninja skills in the kitchen far exceed my culinary belt color, not to mention their being überhip. So I remained skeptical, and tried to be open about my kitchen landscape.

@evelynshoop @meleanashim. MomsicleBlogI hit myself over the head for using wild twice in a row. But Mana didn’t seem fazed.

@evelynshoop @meleanashim. MomsicleBlog

It was probably because I’d replied to a tweet of hers. Mana was profiled at the last home game and I looked her up afterwards and started following her.

Here I am at the game. (Thanks for the photo, Dad.)

Portland Thorns. MomsicleBlog

I came to love the Thorns not because I’m obsessed with the beautiful game, but because of being a confident, nerdy kid who always felt like women could do anything men could do. Then I went to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and the equality sword got sharpened to a fine point. And then I married my husband who rekindled my love of sports, and we now have our two preschool-age boys, who also love sports, and we watch a lot of ESPN, which seems to constantly hedge its bets on whether women’s sports are really a thing.

When I saw the Thorns’ motto, “She Flies With Her Own Wings,” and felt how the crowd went crazy for the team, I was in love. THIS was how women’s sports should be supported. [Editor’s note: Mike, down in the comments, woke me up to the fact that this is also Oregon’s state motto. Way to go, home state! You are more awesome than I thought, if that’s possible.]

She Flies With Her Own Wings. MomsicleBlog

So Mana and I arranged to talk on the phone, and I cyber-stalked her so that I would have a few questions I could lob to see if she was the real Meleana Shim. Like, what’s the mascot of Kamehameha High School?

In the end I went with, “So you got a yellow card in yesterday’s game?”

“Ha! Yeah! It was such a stupid one.” And then she said something else about the yellow card that I don’t remember, but made her seem like a legitimate soccer player and not one of my family members.

Bro. MomsicleBlog

[Family member, not Mana.]

Mana and I set up a time to meet at my house.

And I started sharpening my knives–what any chef or serial killer would do.

Mana said she didn’t really cook, but she did own a Vitamix, which made me jealous: Our 1995 Hamilton Beach blender had about 300,000 miles on it and smoked a little every time we used it.

Being summer, I thought we would make panzanella, the Italian bread salad that I had learned thanks to Barefoot Contessa. I had grand plans for a three-course meal in my mind, but if Mana really didn’t cook that much, learning some knife skills on willing vegetables and making homemade vinaigrette and croutons would be impressive enough… I hoped.

Homemade Croutons Prep. MomsicleBlog

Plus I’m very chatty when excited, so getting just one dish done could be a challenge.

I was nervous. Would she like me? Would she really show up?

My husband was nervous. I was giving out our home address to people we’d never met, who may or may not be real soccer players.

And Mana, well she probably should have been the most nervous. She was showing up to a house in a labyrinthine neighborhood where none of her teammates would be able to find her, meeting a woman who was sharpening butcher knives. Hopefully she wasn’t going to be chopped up into bits and buried in our backyard.

But she came! And she was a real girl not a tweetbot or a psychopath!

Mana Cooks With Evelyn. MomsicleBlog

And we had wine and made panzanella and chopped up bread for croutons. And we sort of spun around the kitchen with clouds of amped-up emotion hanging over our heads.

And then I made her try everything in my fridge. Right after Mana said she hated Bloody Mary’s, I made her eat my gazpacho–the cold-tomato-soup cousin of the Bloody Mary.

Meleana Shim Eats Gazpacho. MomsicleBlog

I think I won her over. I mean, my gazpacho is silky and delicious, and we topped it with prosciutto, chopped tomato and cucumber, and hard-boiled egg.

So that’s the story morning glory.


Mana came back for more cooking.

Mana Cooks With K-Pants And Bro. MomsicleBlog

And she invited me to visit her in Hawaii. Although I think I really invited myself.

Mana Evelyn Hawaii. MomsicleBlog



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Marinated Vegetable Salads: Panzanella Recipe

I’m a glutton at the farmers market in late summer and early fall. Everything speaks my language. The tomatoes, especially, know my secret siren call.

But K-Pants and Baby Woww aren’t exactly helpful, and making dinner seems like a daily battle.

So I’m relying on a few flavorful marinated salads to ensure that we have fresh side dishes. We’ve been trying to eat more vegetables in general, because everywhere I look the message is MORE VEGETABLES = LONGER, HEALTHIER LIFE.

Okay, okay, I get it!

Here’s the recipe for panzanella, an Italian vegetable and bread salad with a simple dijon dressing that I came to love through the Barefoot Contessa. The next food posts will be

  • Marinated broccoli, cucumber, and tomato salad; and
  • Marinated corn, tomato, and onion salad with easy chimichurri sauce.

For all my salads I start by mixing up a simple dressing right in the bottom of the glass bowl that I’ll be storing the salad in. 

Panzanella (Italian bread salad)


    • 3 bell peppers, chopped (various colors makes the salad pretty)
    • 3 tomatoes, chopped
    • 3 cucumbers, seeded and chopped
    • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
    • 2 tbs. dijon mustard
    • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
    • 1 scant tsp salt
    • 1 generous tsp pepper
    • chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano…if you have them)
    • balsamic or red wine vinegar
    • olive oil
    • 1 loaf bread, sliced into 1″ cubes (it helps if your bread is hearty and not pre-sliced–I like Grand Central Bakery’s levain, and any baguette will work)

Now Do This

Make the dressing first.

  • Throw garlic, dijon, salt, pepper, and herbs into the bottom of your bowl.
  • Add 1/3 cup vinegar and whisk together.
  • Whisking briskly, drizzle in 2/3 cup to 1 cup olive oil.

Then prep the veggies and toss.

  • Chop all your veggies into about one-inch square pieces. It’s nice to have everything all the same size for forking.
  • But the onions! Who wants a giant piece of raw onion to chomp on? Not me. Slice your red onion up real thin.
  • Throw everything into the dressing and toss it well.

Now slice and sauté your croutons in oil.

  • Cut chunks of bread to 1″ cubes.
  • Get about 1/3 cup oil to medium-high heat on the stove in a big sauté pan, and throw in a bread cube to see if the oil is hot enough.
  • Loosely cover the bottom of your pan with bread cubes. Using tongs, check and turn them when one side is browned. I only brown two sides, because who has time to turn them more than that? Keep going until you’re done.
  • Set them aside to cool.
  • Add the croutons to your salad about five minutes before eating. They’ll soak up the dressing and you’ll be in heaven. I keep the extras in a plastic Ziploc to use throughout the week.

Are you in a rush? Do you hate to cook? Just chop the veggies, toss in a cup of store-bought vinaigrette, and add some boxed croutons a few minutes before eating. 

Two other delicious veggie recipes you may enjoy: