Panzanella is a popular summer salad that originated in Tuscany. Its made with chunks of stale bread, vine ripened tomatoes and sweet basil. It’s similar to the middle eastern salad called Fattoush which is made with fried pita bread.
Panzanella is popular in other parts of central Italy and considered a poor man’s salad by using up any remaining stale loaves of bread.
But what makes this salad a summer delight, is the bread soaks up the dressing and all its rich flavor from the center of the tomatoes, red wine vinegar and olive oil.
Panzanella is the perfect salad for a picnic or day at the beach, just don’t toss the bread until you are 10 min from serving so the bread can really soak up these wonderful flavors, and please DO NOT refrigerate or the tomatoes will lose their wonderful flavor!!!
Now by making a few recipe adjustments this salad is over the top delicious and healthy to eat. I can seriously eat this entire recipe in 24 hours, it’s that good and my favorite salad.
To make this salad a success really depends on using a good quality olive oil and freshest tomatoes.
If you come across any Heirloom tomatoes grab em! Also If you use fresh bread without grilling or toasting it first, the bread will disintegrate into a mushy mess. This is the perfect salad to show off the best summer produce and is visually stunning with the variety of colors.
Adapted from Cooks Country, 2012
6 cups Italian or French bread, cut loaf or tear into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, cored and seeded, then cut into 1 inch pieces
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 medium cucumber, skin peeled, cut lengthwise, then seeded, and sliced thin
1 med shallot, sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400.
Toss cut up bread with 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ teaspoon salt; arrange bread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet.
Toast bread pieces until it just starts to turn light golden, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Grilling Bread Method
Get your grill hot and slice the bread. Place slices of bread on the hot grill for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. You’ll want to stay near the grill or the bread will burn and too charred and mask the flavors the same. A little char is okay, a lot will kill the dish.
Cut tomatoes in half, than using a spoon remove the center and seeds and place into a small bowl then dice tomato into medium pieces.
Gently toss tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt in large bowl.
Transfer tomatoes from bowl into a colander or sieve and set over same bowl to drain for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Peel and Slice cucumber in half and remove center and seeds and discard, slice cucumber thin.
Slice shallots thin, set aside with cucumbers
If you don’t have shallots or can’t find any, then its okay to use red onion.Just slice it really thin.
Roll basil and repeat.
Whisk remaining 6 tablespoons oil, red wine vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon pepper into reserved tomato juices and whisk together.
Add bread pieces and toss to coat all the bread evenly, then, let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Add tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, and basil to bowl with bread and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.
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