Sunday, June 21, 2009

Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad)

Panzanella is a classic Tuscan summertime dish. Simple to make, it requires no cooking and is best if made at least an hour before serving, so it's a great dish to bring to potlucks and parties.

The version I made is the most basic one, but it's easy to make your own variations by adding whatever ingredients you want. Some common additions include hard-boiled egg, anchovies, capers, or lettuce.

Ingredients (for a large salad):
1/2 loaf of high-quality, somewhat stale bread (though the typical bread would be Tuscan bread, which is made without salt and in my opinion is a complete waste of flour, I used some older sourdough walnut bread I had, and it was delicious. The walnuts were a great addition to the salad as was the extra flavor of the sourdough)
1 cucumber
5 medium-sized salad tomatoes
1 red onion (the fresh kind if possible)
A handful of basil leaves
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Cut the bread into thick slices and place the slices in a large bowl of cold water to soften up. Depending on how stale your bread is, this could take from about 5-15 minutes. The bread should be soft but not disintegrating.

When the bread is softened, remove it from the water and squeeze out any excess water from the bread. Taking a bit at a time, crumble the bread into smallish bits (not as small as real crumbs), and place the crumbled bread in your salad bowl.

Slice the onion into half-rings. Wash and peel the cucumber (if it's the kind that needs to be peeled) and slice it fairly thin. Wash the tomatoes and dice them. Wash the basil leaves and tear them up by hand.

Add the onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and basil to the bread. Add in several spoonfuls of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir everything up, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Just before serving, add in a spoonful or two of balsamic vinegar, and extra olive oil, salt, or pepper, if necessary.

No comments: