July 11, 2008

Panzanella - A Summer Staple

Leftover bread.
Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning in it. You wouldn't believe the amount of crumbs I clean off our kitchen counters on a daily basis.

Baguettes, gros pain, campaillettes, ficelles, pain de campagne...

The amazing variety of bread available in the boulangeries in France is a carbophobe's nightmare.
And a bread lover's dream!

So when you are surrounded by all this gorgeous bread you tend to buy it almost every day and occasionally, (unless you have guests or are eating something that just screams out for lots and lots of it) you have leftover, half eaten loaves that becomes stale within hours.

The perfect solution is Panzanella, an incredibly satisfying Italian bread and tomato salad.

I make Panzanella a lot in the summertime. It combines all that I love about summer cooking;
  • no oven necessary so there is no "cooking"
  • uses lots of fresh, local produce
  • takes almost no time to throw together
  • tastes wonderful with a cold glass of rosé

The recipe I've given here is merely a guide. I added some arugula and minced shallots to the most recent batch which blended well with the other ingredients.
The olive oil and vinegar amounts are to taste. I love a really vinegar-y salad, so usually add more than most people.

serves 4

about 6 cups of day-old, crusty peasant-style bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large tomatoes, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges
1 cup peeled and seeded cucumber, sliced
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 4 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
a handful (about 15-20- I like a lot) of fresh basil leaves, torn up

Mix everything together in a bowl and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Pin It


wcs said...

Oh, that's a great idea. We cut up our leftover baguettes/bread and freeze it. The stuff that goes stale before freezing gets put into a "dead bread" ziploc in the fridge for use as breadcrumbs, bread puddings, and now, maybe, panzaella!

wcs said...

Or panzanella, if you know how to type.

spacedlaw said...

I love panzanella and its a good way to get rid of surplus rock hard bread.
Here we make it with saltless bread (but that's about living in central Italy) and no vinegar as the natural faint acidity of the tomato is deemed enough to balance olive oil.

Loulou said...

I freeze some too and have lots of bags of breadcrumbs.
Try this too, it is delicious!

I have read about the lack of vinegar in traditional Italian bread panzanella. I just love vinegar, so couldn't leave it out! :)

Betty C. said...

This salad always looks delicious, but when I tried to make it, no one really cared for it. It was pretty mushy -- I guess I didn't have the right touch.

I freeze bread before "the tipping point" too, and sometimes make the so rightly named "pain perdu" with it.

spacedlaw said...

Vinegar is just not used at all on tomatoes actually (so much so that the adding of vinegar to insalata caprese is a full proof way to recognize tourists).
I love vinegar too (I tend to smother other salads in it and in particular beeroot or lentils).

Loulou said...

Yes, there is a point where it can get too mushy. I add a bit of oil and vinegar then stir, taste, and repeat. That way I get the texture I want.

I use the leftovers for bread pudding too. With whiskey sauce, of course! :)

Oh dear, I would definitely be categorized as a tourist then!
Which is true though...I am a tourist when I'm in Italy. :)