Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bread salad. Panzanella

This Italian dish from Tuscany is somewhat similar to gazpacho being in essense a bread salad. Panzanella is also a perfect leftover salad. Throw in anything you like. As long as you use: bread, tomatoes, basil, salt, vinegar and oil.

The base is bread, traditionally stale bread, but fresh will do. Use ciabatta, or any other type of bread. I used pretty heavy sourdough rye (rogge) wheat bread, which worked perfectly. I sprinkled the sliced bread with olive oil, fried it in a pan, then diced it. You can also bake the bread in an oven, toast it or use stale old bread. Good quality bread is essential for this dish. Don't even think of supermarket bread. Ever.

Put the diced bread in a bowl, add canned tuna, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion in chunks. At this point you are free to use anything which is suitable: black olives, capers, diced potatoes, hard boiled egg. But remember: less is more!

Make a vinaigrette with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and make sure the bread soaks up the vinaigrette.

I didn’t have any basil, but fresh basil leaves are an important addition. I did use the pine nuts I had left over from the pesto. Blanched almonds will also do nicely.

Good thing this salad doesn’t need any lettuce. I’m not much of a lettuce fan. It doesn’t keep very well and it’s impossible to eat with a spoon.


Alternative:

This recipe for panzanella, as it is known in Italy, comes from Hiro
Sone, the very talented chef/owner of the restaurant, Terra, in St.
Helena, California. Hiro's is, hands down, the best version of this
Italian classic we know.

Ingredients (makes 6 servings)

1/2 small baguette (about 12 inches long)
1 large garlic clove, mashed
Olive oil for brushing
6 medium to large California tomatoes, cut into large chunks
1/2 medium onion chopped
3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh basil
4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven.
Split the baguette lengthwise. Rub the cut side of one half very well
with the mashed garlic. Brush liberally with olive oil. Cut the
garlicked half in half again lengthwise, and then cut these strips
into 3/4 inch pieces. Place the croutons on a baking sheet, crust
side down. Bake 30 minutes, until dark golden.
If croutons are made in advance, put the California tomatoes in a
large mixing bowl a bit before you intend to mix the salad, then
drain off and discard any juice that may accumulate.
To serve, add the croutons, onion, and basil to the California
tomatoes. Whisk the vinegar and oil for the vinaigrette. Pour over
all and toss.
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