Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Panzanella is a traditional Italian bread and tomato salad.  There are many versions of this salad, but the 2 key ingredients are stale bread and tomatoes.  And when I say stale, I mean hard NOT moldy.

There are so many good things about this recipe:
  1. Super simple to make
  2. No stove required
  3. Using up ingredients you might have just thrown out
  4. Healthy
  5. Delicious
  6. Versatile/customizable
This recipe reminds me of when Brendan and I lived in our 2nd apartment in Bellerose, NY.  Almost every night in the summer I would make grilled chicken and this salad and we would enjoy dinner outside on our back porch.  Perfect for those fresh summer veggies and days that are too hot to cook.

I am also trying to use up all the gorgeous veggies that my dad has grown in the backyard this season.  We need to finish up the summer harvest so he can plant the fall harvest! Absolutely love that he grows all this stuff! Free fresh veggies, I can pickle all the hot peppers, make sauce from tomatoes and can for the winter, andddddd I just found rosemary growing too! Wonderful! I wish I had the time, patience and room to grow plants/food like my dad does.

(This is what I used to make about 4 good-sized bowls of the salad)
  • 1/2 loaf of stale french baguette, broken into pieces
  • 3-4 large really ripe tomatoes, chopped into big chunks
  • 1 cucumber, chopped into big chunks
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thin
  • 15 basil leaves, ripped/torn/sliced
  • EVOO
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  1. Take half your bread and soak in water.  Reserve the other half for now. (If you don't have juicy tomatoes then soak all your bread in water)*
  2. Cut your tomatoes and put in a large bowl.  Squeeze them in the bowl so a lot of their juices are released.
  3. Cut up the cucumber, onion and basil and add to the tomatoes.
  4. Carefully and gently wring the water out of the bread that's soaking and break up/crumble with your fingers and add to the bowl with the veggies.  Add the dry bread in as well.
  5. I drizzled in about a 1/4 cup of EVOO and about 3-4 tbsp of vinegar.  Salt and pepper to taste.  This step is based on your preferred taste.  Add more or less of any of these ingredients.
  6. Toss to combine and let sit about 10 minutes.
  7. Enjoy with some simple grilled chicken and you have a lovely simple summer time dinner.

*The soaking of the bread in water is the traditional part of the dish.  I've read a lot of recipes for panzanella, some people toast the bread, but I think that takes away from the essential idea of the dish by toasting.  (I would agree though it will change the overall taste of the salad) It's kind of a throw-together & use-up-what-you-have dish (very Italian).  Besides, the bread is already rock hard and why waste time toasting. 

I soaked only half the bread in water and left the rest out, because I wanted the other half to soak up more of the tomato juices.  That's why I squeezed the tomatoes in the bowl in the beginning.  But you can do whatever you want- it's your salad, and you're going to be eating it, not me.

As I said before, this dish is very easy to make according to what you like, so add more of one ingriedent if you want.  Even though this is a good guidleine to go with, I never follow a set recipe for this.  It really is just throw in whatever you have and toss with some stale bread.  You can use peppers, capers, garlic, carrots, parsley, olives, cheese etc.  Recipes like this make leftovers look good, even impressive!

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