Panzanella is an Italian bread salad coming from the Florentine region. Perfect for a summer palate, its ingredients can range from the simple ones I have listed below to more complex versions with capers, peppers, and red onions. I decided to make panzanella today after looking in the bread box, where a third of a stale French Country loaf sat, leftover from Saturday’s market. It was stale, but not moldy; I chopped it up into cubes for the salad. The tomatoes were the “ugly” tomatoes I bought at the market today (as were the cucumbers). The basil is from the garden (mother plant seen behind the salad!). I made up the recipe, using elements from Ina Garten and an old recipe from Gourmet. I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients, so I substituted where I could. Panzanella
Stale bread (I used about a third of a loaf of Country French, chopped into half-inch cubes)
Heirloom tomatoes (or any big, juicy, flavorful tomatoes), diced in big pieces
Cucumbers, chopped into small pieces
Basil, either torn or chopped up
Olive oil (the better the olive oil, the better the salad—the flavor of the oil really comes through)
Red wine vinegar (I had about three drops left, so I put those in and then a bit of white wine vinegar)
Salt and black pepper, to taste.
Sauté the bread pieces in a pan with a little bit of the olive oil and salt on medium heat until they are toasted and have soaked up some of the oil (I did this for about 5 minutes). Combine the bread with the tomatoes, cucumber, and basil; mix up the oil and vinegar dressing and pour it over the salad. The dressing should be mostly oil, with a few dashes of vinegar. It should have enough oil to soak into the bread without making it soggy (it depends on how stale the bread is). Let the salad sit until the flavors are all together, about 45 minutes.