|panzanella (Italian bread salad)|
Panzanella is a thrifty Italian salad using stale bread, which makes it a quick and delicious solution as to what to eat for an unexpected guest on a hot summer's day.
In the past, I have had some pretty ropey bread salads. This was largely because the salads were soggy with dressing, the texture of bread sauce, which I suspect is because the salad was dressed too far in advance. Dress the salad at the last minute; on a hot summer's day sitting out in the garden, you will have enough time to swig down a cool glass of chilled wine while the dressing lightly coats the bread salad.
I have also found that the tomatoes used in restaurant salads have no flavour whatsoever, which is terribly disappointing. When I buy tomatoes I have got in to the habit of putting them in a brown paper bag and leaving them on a sunny windowsill. I am convinced that while they ripen further, they are imbued with a sweeter flavour!
Skill level: Easy
½ x rustic loaf of bread (such as ciabatta) - about 3 slices, lightly toasted and torn into rough chunks
a mix of tomatoes - I like to use baby plum tomatoes, a few sun dried tomatoes and my homemade mi cuit tomatoes
8 x Kalamata olives, chopped
1tbsp capers, drained
4 x anchovies (optional)
½ x cucumber, deseed and diced
a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar (or other wine vinegar)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of sugar (optional)
- The stale bread should be lightly toasted then broken up into large bite-sized chunks.
- Prepare the rest of the salad ingredients. You can de-seed the tomatoes if you choose to but I don't usually bother. Combine the salad vegetables with the bread and set aside while you make the dressing.
- Combine all the dressing ingredients. Check the seasoning. You may want a little sugar to sweeten up the salad tomatoes.
- Serve the salad with the basil leaves strewn over. At the last minute, drizzle with the dressing and toss to combine.
- I love a hearty panzanella on its own, but it is delicious served with a piece of grilled fish such as bream or mackerel.
- Add a little cheese such as feta or manchego.