Thursday, September 1, 2011

Panzanella (Bread and Tomato Salad)

In my last post, I vowed to give quick simple dishes some love. Well, it doesn't really get any faster or easier than panzanella.  I've been meaning to make it about a month now, since I've come across a couple panzanella-esque recipes recently -- at El Comidista and Smitten Kitchen -- and now I'm upset I waited so long.

While other vegetables are sometimes added, the staple ingredients of this Tuscan salad are bread, tomatoes, and good quality olive oil. The preparation is about as minimalist as it gets so it's very important to start with fresh produce. 'Tis the end season for tomatoes and peppers, so hit up your local farmer's markets while you can. The bread also needs to be high quality -- think hearty and crusty -- and preferably a day old, to prevent it from getting too soggy. Once toasted, it soaks up the dressing and tomato juices without falling apart, basically doing the dunking for you. This combination of ingredients is seasonal perfection, but I couldn't resist adding some navy beans for a complete, albeit light, meal.

So the question shouldn't be why to make this salad, but why to wait another minute. After all it's September, and therefore time to start savoring the last of our summer meals.


Panzanella (Bread and Tomato Salad)
Makes 4 generous servings
  • 1/2 lb / 225 g good crusty bread, preferably a day old
  • 2 pints / 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (you could also use any other tomato variety)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider, white or sherry vinegar (I like my dressing pretty strong so I added 2 additional tablespoons of vinegar)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 1/2-2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper
1.  Cut the bread into about 1/2 inch / 1 cm thick slices and toast it until it's golden brown. Cut it into bite-sized cubes and toss into a large salad bowl.

2.  Add the tomatoes, onion and green pepper to the bowl with the toasted bread. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and pour over the salad. Give the salad a good toss and let it sit for about 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the veggie juices and dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately or store for up to a day. 

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