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
  • 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.


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