This is a simply scrumptious salad. It has a great deal of that traditional, rustic quality and can come together easily. I am a lover of good salad greens, but, this keeps the “normal” salad greens to a minimum and brings a chunky mixture together to create something that is a wonderful change from the same old dinner salad. First let’s talk about the traditional Panzanella make up. Here is a recipe I found and thought you may enjoy.
Panzanella is a traditional Tuscan salad that uses up stale bread.
The cuisine of Tuscany is a cucina povera – a peasant cuisine, and the Tuscans have come up with lots of imaginative uses for leftovers – including stale bread. Panzanella, a tasty stale bread salad, is also found in other parts of central Italy. It’s easy to make yourself and is a great way of using up that stale bread you don’t know what to do with – although the flavor is best if you use hearty country bread (supermarket sliced just won’t do).
There are various versions of Panzanella in Italy, and households will have their own variations on the recipe. Here’s one of the most popular.
1 clove of garlic
4 slices of stale bread – ideally Italian and white
2 small red onions
1lb of ripe, full flavored tomatoes
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
seasoning (salt, fresh ground black pepper)
some fresh basil
1. Peel and half the garlic clove, then rub it round the inside of a salad bowl. Finely slice the onions and cut the tomatoes and cucumber into hearty chunks. Soak the bread until it’s moist – but not squishy, then crumble it into the bowl – together with the onion, tomatoes and cucumber.
2. Mix the olive oil and white wine vinegar, add the seasoning, then pour it over the salad. Tear the basil leaves and pop them on the top. (Don’t cut the basil leaves as it impairs their flavour.)
Variations for Panzanella
- If you prefer your bread crunchy, then you can toast, rather than soak, the slices and cut them into squares. Let them cool before adding to the salad. You might also like to give the Panzanella an extra garlic flavor: just rub the slices of bread with the halved garlic cloves before toasting them.
- Another variation involves adding anchovies and some sweet yellow pepper (about a quarter of a fresh pepper).
- Mash the garlic up with 2 or 3 anchovy fillets. Then cut the pepper into thin slices. Mix the pepper with the garlic/anchovy mixture and put it into a salad bowl – then proceed as above, with the bread and other salad ingredients.
This salad makes a great starter, or a light lunch. As with so much in Italian cuisine, it’s a very simple recipe – but the key is in the quality of the ingredients. Use lovely, fresh tomatoes and cucumber; the best olive oil you can get; and fresh basil.
A Vibrant Panzanella Salad: now that you’ve had the chance to see this traditional recipe let’s talk about my version. I tried to use ingredients that I had handy and this is what ended up accompanying our braised short ribs the other night—it was perfect.
1 small loaf of Garlic French Bread
5-6 ounces of grape tomatoes
3 thick slices of fontina cheese (cubed)
3 thick slices of horseradish cheese (cubed)
1 cup spring mix
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon zested and squeezed
seasoning (kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper)
Cube the bread, halve the cherry tomatoes and cube the cheese. Now it’s time to quarter the cucumber then cut into chunky pieces. Take the spring mix and give it a rough chop. Once you’ve done this zest the lemon. Now combine all these ingredients into a large bowl. Once in the bowl lets squeeze half the lemon over the salad and then drizzle the olive oil. Once you’ve mixed this well just salt and pepper to taste.
I’m so happy to have shared this with you. It is such a wonderful, simple dish. In fact, if you add some chicken or fish you’ll have a fabulous lunch or light dinner. Trust me—throw this together to accompany just about any meal. When you have a chance to try, be creative, do your own thing—and then let me know what you think—I’d love to hear.