Panzanella Salad

This Italian bread and tomato salad manages to be light and fresh but still hearty enough to eat as lunch. I add more veggies to fortify this into a full meal. Another favorite recipe that can be put together easily on a week night.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Roughly 4 cups. I used garlic ciabatta. Pick your favorite crusty bread.
3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1″ pieces mimicking the bread. Leave in room temperature with 1 tsp salt for atleast 20 minutes. This gets the juices flowing.
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 english cucumber, sliced into thin half moons
2 tbsp capers (from a jar with brine), rough chopped
For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil (substitute with fresh basil, about 1/3 cup chopped)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp caper brine
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Servings: 4

Method:

There are a few simple tricks:

  1. To get a perfect dressing for this salad,  use some of the tomato juices extracted simply by leaving the tomato in room temperature and lightly salted.
  2. Drying /toasting fresh bread creates a better texture than using stale bread, and I often don’t plan that ahead!
  3. This is important: Once prepared, the salad needs to sit for a bit in order for the bread to soak up all the tomato juices and dressing

In a small bowl, whip up the vinaigrette: Add garlic, basil, white wine vinegar, caper brine, salt, pepper and mix it up. Drizzle the olive oil while whipping the mixture with a fork. This helps emulsify the oil with the rest of the liquids. Set aside.

Traditionally, we would use stale bread, a day or two old to make sure the bread is crusty and hardened. I often don’t have left over bread, neither do I plan that way ahead, so using an oven to dry out the bread is perfectly fine! Spread the cubes of bread in a baking tray, and crisp in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Check at 5 min intervals to ensure they are not too toasted. Cool off the bread before adding to the veggies.

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In a large bowl toss together the onions, tomatoes (with the juices), cucumber and capers. Now just slowly drizzle in the dressing, tossing everything gently.

 

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Let the salad rest at least  10 minutes in room temperature so all the delicious vinaigrette and veggies soak into the bread. Don’t worry, the bread will not be soggy, just deliciously coated with all the deliciousness.

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