Thursday, 25 February 2016

Panzanella






This simple and tasty salad is a great way to use up old bread. It is, as my daughter put it, "a salad of croutons and tomatoes"...but it is so much more than that. The bread is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the tomatoes are sweet and juicy, and their juice combines with the oil and vinegar to soak into the bread.

I like to toast the bread in the oven, along with herbs, spices, garlic and Parmesan to add even more flavour. The amount of crispiness depends on your personal preferences; so does the amount of dressing you add and the amount of time you allow the bread to sit and soak it up.

I used up a couple of two day old small round crusty loaves to make the salad. I had just bought some baby heirloom tomatoes, so I had a lot of different colours and shapes to work with.

Start off by heating the oven to 350F and cubing your bread into 1" cubes. I had approximately 4 cups of bread cubes.


Toss the bread with:

peeled garlic cloves
salt and pepper
crushed fennel seeds
olive oil

Spread onto a baking sheet and bake until the bread is starting to crisp up on the outside, but is still soft on the inside.




Sprinkle a handful of grated Parmesan over the bread and place back into the oven.

When the bread has reached the desired crunchiness, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.






In a large bowl, combine:

2 cups halved grape tomatoes
A handful of grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste


Add:

1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Allow the tomatoes to sit with the oil and vinegar for about 30 minutes; this will help to draw out some of the tomato juices.




Add the cooled bread to the tomatoes, along with:

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Stir to combine; taste and adjust seasoning. If you feel the bread needs more oil and vinegar, add more.




Serve the salad immediately if you prefer the bread to remain slightly crispy; let it sit a while if you want the bread to absorb more liquid and become a bit softer.




  • Using up old bread doesn't have to mean making just breadcrumbs or bread pudding...this salad turns it into a tasty salad, full of colour, flavour and texture. The bread can be toasted with the herbs, spices, garlic and Parmesan and used as croutons in a green salad or as a soup garnish.
  • Keeping in mind that the bread cubes will crisp up as they cool, remove them from the oven when they are still a bit softer than you would prefer. The ideal for the salad is crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside. A more traditional way of making the salad is to soak the stale bread in liquid, and then squeeze out the excess before adding the other ingredients. I prefer to crisp the bread as it adds more interest to the salad.
  • Adding garlic, herbs, spices and cheese to the bread during toasting adds interest to the salad, and complements the flavours of the dressing. Woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme work well; try spices such as chili flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika or garlic powder.
  • If you are able to use heirloom or yellow, orange and red tomatoes you will have the bonus of different shapes, colours and flavours. Roma, grape, cherry or any type of ripe tomatoes that you have available will work well in the salad. Cut them in half, quarters, slices or a combination for interest. The key is that the tomatoes are ripe and juicy.
  • Allowing the cut tomatoes to sit with the salt and vinegar allows the juices to be released, and combine with the oil and vinegar. This dressing soaks into the bread and gives it another boost of flavour.
  • Any vinegar can be used...Balsamic, herb vinegars or wine vinegars.
  • Herbs that can be added along with the tomatoes include basil, parsley, tarragon (use this sparingly as it in a strong herb and can easily overpower other flavours). Green onions or chopped fresh choves can be added as well.
  • For added interest include other ingredients such as olives, chopped sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, anchovies - whole or minced, roasted red peppers.
  • The amount of oil and vinegar is a starting point, and should be adjusted according to how crispy the bread is, as well as how much you want the bread to absorb. The longer the bread sits with the dressing and tomatoes, the more liquid it will absorb, so keep this in mind when combining them before serving the salad. I let my salad sit for about 20 minutes, as I wanted the bread to remain slightly crunchy.
  • This salad does not keep well once the bread has been added to the tomatoes.


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