Panzanella: Plunge into Tomato and Italy Inspired Excess

Brace yourselves! This week the blog will be flooded with tomatoes and memories of Italy, beginning with today’s recipe for panzanella. If your tomato plants are buckling under ruby red fruit, consider making this gorgeous tomato bread salad for dinner tonight. It’s a simple salad that really lets the flavor of ripe, local tomatoes shine through. I love that it brings together a few different textures with stale bread, tomato chunks and diced cucumber. Panzanella is a celebration of summer and a riot of color.

PanzarellaOur tomato crop suffered greatly from our trip to Europe (note to self – must investigate how much a sprinkler system will break the bank for next summer), but our friends and neighbors have more than made up for our meagre backyard pickings. Stephanie, Emily, Amy, and Suzie… thank you and keep your tomato beauties coming. Between tomato feasts, we’re trying to muster up enough energy for a batch of homemade roasted tomato ketchup to thank you for your generosity. Only time will tell if we are strong enough to resist the urge to slice any new tomatoes right then and there and eat them standing up, juice dripping down our chins.

Tomatoes

Panzanella takes minutes to throw together, standing in the kitchen, letting the flavors of all the fresh produce tickle your senses. Roughly cut your tomatoes, dice your cucumbers (up to you whether you leave the skin on), and tear fresh basil into small pieces. I like to tear the stale Italian bread too, or better yet, put small hands to work adding bread to the salad while I whip up a quick balsamic vinaigrette. Then leave the salad sitting for a half hour on the counter for the flavors to weave together and soak up in the bread. When you’re ready with the rest of the meal, the panzanella will be perfect.

Panzanella: Peasant Tomato Bread Salad

Panzanella: Peasant Tomato Bread Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 Fresh, Ripe Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cups of stale bread chunks
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut your tomatoes into quarters and cut in half again. Scrape the tomatoes and any juice and seeds into a large bowl.
  2. Peel and dice the cucumber, add it to the bowl.
  3. Tear your bread into pieces and add it to the bowl.
  4. Either with scissors or again with your hands, cut the basil into small pieces. Add that to the bowl.
  5. Now make the vinaigrette, combining oil, vinegar, and mustard and whisking with a fork with great theatrics until creamy and thoroughly combined. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.
  6. Drizzle the vinaigrette all over the salad and toss thoroughly.
  7. Let salad stand on the counter (NOT THE FRIDGE!) for 30 minutes. Do not put it in the fridge as it will make the tomatoes mealy and mushy.
  8. Enjoy as much as you can eat. This doesn't taste very good the next day. This panzanella is all about freshness.
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