Saturday, August 31, 2013

Panzanella or Italian Bread Salad

One of my favorite recipes for end of summer tomatoes is Panzanella. It is so simple yet so good; the key is using only the highest quality ingredients. This is a dish that is both rustic and elegant, healthy yet a solid comfort food.

4-5 large heirloom tomatoes (cubed) or 1-2 pounds of cherry tomatoes (halved)
One cucumber, seeds removed and sliced thin
One red or sweet onion, sliced thin
Fresh basil, cut in thin strips
Loaf of thick, rustic, crusty bread, slightly stale (cubed into crouton sized bites)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil – I reduce to 1/8 of cup to reduce calories
1/4 cup red wine vinegar – I reduce to 1/8 of cup to reduce calories
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop all vegetables using the above directions and place in large bowl (preferably one that can be sealed). Liberally salt and pepper the contents to taste. Remember – the salt brings out the flavor of the tomatoes! Add the oil and vinegars and lightly toss to mix. (I fill a quarter cup halfway with olive oil and the rest of the way with red wine vinegar. Do add the whole tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.)

I normally wait until a couple minutes prior to serving to add the rustic bread. It is supposed to be soggy with oil and vinegar, the key is to not let it get too soggy. Use slightly stale, thick rustic bread made from hardier wheat flour. This will hold up better than a soft, white flour baguette.  For a slightly crunchier texture, bread can be toasted in a toaster or under the broiler in the oven. Chop the bread in larger-sized croutons and toss salad again, making sure the oil and vinegars are evenly deposited on the bread. Salad will keep for up to three days – if it lasts that long!

Panzanella sans the bread

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