22 Jun 2012

Summery Panzanella

Deviating a bit from the decidedly sweet direction of this blog, I’ve decided to share a fresh, summery salad recipe – using stale bread! Talk about a paradox... The first time I heard the name ‘panzanella’, I thought she was a fairy tale heroine, kind of a cross between Cinderella and Rapunzel! Instead, it turned out to be a colourful and flavoursome salad.

Panzanella is a traditional Italian salad (insalata), originating in Tuscany and it is a great way of using up stale or leftover bread in a delicious way. As with many rustic Italian dishes, panzanella requires few ingredients and is a very simple recipe. Unlike most salads, it does not need to be mixed just before serving. It can be made a day in advance and refrigerated to allow all the flavours to really come out, or can be made just a couple of hours before serving.

The bread can be any Italian style hard bread or baguette. I have even made panzanella using sliced brown bread or leftover garlic bread from ordered-in pizza meals! If the bread is quite hard, it can be soaked in water for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and squeeze out as much of the water as you can. On the other hand, if you are cheating and using sliced brown bread, you may want to toast it lightly before using. Some recipes suggest removing the crust of the bread but it just seems like a waste to me. So if you are serving this dish at your dinner table (and not in a restaurant), leave the crust on.
The other main ingredient in this salad is tomato. Use good ripe tomatoes that are still a bit firm. Some recipes suggest using heirloom tomatoes, but the whole point is to make this dish without making a trip to the market! So use the tomatoes that you normally use in your kitchen. You can either use raw tomatoes or blanch them and peel the skin. Be sure to remove the seeds. Apart from this, you’ll need onion, garlic, vinegar and fresh basil.
This recipe serves 4-6 people (as a side dish).

You’ll need:
  • Leftover Bread, approx. 250g, torn into small pieces
  • 1 small Onion, sliced or chopped
  • 60ml Vinegar (any type you have on hand)
  • 400g Tomatoes
  • 1 clove of Garlic
  • A large handful of fresh Basil, torn
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • A pinch of Sugar
  • Olive Oil
How to:
  • Place the sliced onion in a large bowl, add vinegar and let steep for about 10 minutes.
  • Grate some garlic over the onion.
  • Add in the tomatoes (either raw or blanched), salt pepper and sugar.
  • Add the bread and about half the basil. Pour some olive oil.
  • Mix thoroughly with your hands and then scatter the remaining basil leaves on top.
  • Refrigerate till serving.