Thursday, September 11, 2014

Celebrate Tomato Season Like An Italian with Panzanella

When tomato season rolls around, the first thing I want is a tomato sandwich. Yes, you heard me right, a tomato sandwich. Just thick slices of the nearest perfectly ripe heirloom tomato on some of Dave's homemade bread slathered with mayonnaise. No lettuce or other frippery. I swiftly move on to a BLT with some of Dave's home-smoked bacon, then (in no particular order) tomato salad, maybe a salsa or two or a tomato tart, but tomato season isn't completo without having that heavenly tomato-bread salad the Italians call panzanella.

Heaven on whole wheat bread.

Because of the aforementioned homemade bread, we have lots of loaf ends that get chopped up, dried and frozen, making the ideal medium to soak up the juices from the ripest, sweetest tomatoes. This is the perfect use for those tomatoes that are starting to get a little overripe and squishy, so slice up a mix of those and some ripe-but-firm ones. And while it's perfectly fine to just use good old red tomatoes, I like to include as many colors as I can for the most stunning result.

It's best to make this a bit ahead of time so the bread has the optimum opportunity to soak up those tomatoey juices, and don't forget to stir it occasionally to rotate the less-soaked pieces into the juice that gathers at the bottom of the bowl. A roasted chicken is my choice to go with this salad if you feel the need for a meat course, but shave some parmesan on top or serve alongside any grilled vegetables for a vegetarian feast fit for a king, or even company!


For the dressing:
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2/3 c. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 tsp. salt

For the salad:
4 c. bread, 2 or 3 days old, cut into 1/2” cubes
4-6 c. tomatoes, chopped in 1/2” cubes
1/2 c. basil, sliced into chiffonade
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into 1/2” cubes
1/2 c. kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Salt to taste

In medium mixing bowl whisk dressing ingredients together. Set aside.

In large salad bowl, combine bread, tomatoes and basil. Allow to stand for 20 min. for bread to absorb juices and dressing. Add remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly. Allow to stand 20-30 minutes before serving, mixing occasionally.

And check out these other versions of panzanella. So infinitely flexible and delicious!

No comments: