Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Panzanella - Tuscan Bread Summer Salad

Growing up, my dad made this amazing bread salad from Tuscany called panzanella. It was the perfect summer salad - cool, refreshing and crisp. I always get a hankering for it during the hot days of summer and luckily it's really simple to make! Traditional Tuscan cooking calls for minimal ingredients and usually uses leftovers, so it's ideal for people on a budget or who are lazy (like me!).

Ciao bella!


1 loaf of day-old crusty Italian peasant bread like ciabatta, cut into cubes
1 lb. of tomatoes (Roma, chopped up, or alternatively cherry tomatoes)
1 cucumber, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 red onion, diced
1 bunch scallions, diced
1 generous handful of shredded fresh basil
Equal parts extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing
Dashes of salt and pepper to taste

Soak the cubes of bread in cool water for about one hour (make sure your day-old bread is dried out enough to ensure it soaks up enough water without becoming mushy - if you don't think it's dry enough pop the bread cubes in the oven on 300 degrees for roughly 10 minutes). Make sure the bread is completely submerged.

While you are soaking the bread, chop up your tomatoes, cucumber, onion and scallions and tear the basil into small pieces.

Once the bread has soaked long enough, strain all the water out and squeeze each individual cube of bread (ewwww squishy!!). Then throw everything - bread cubes and veggies - into a big bowl. Dress with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. If desired, stick in the fridge for an hour or so to allow the flavors to develop. This dish is best serve chilled.

The result is a rustic and filling salad that is perfect for the dog days of summer.

Mangia, mangia!

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