Not many people know this, but I was actually born near Florence, Italy and moved to the States with my parents when I was around 4 years old (my mom was American, and my dad Italian, so I have dual citizenship). Even though we moved to the States, I grew up on Tuscan cooking, with recipes handed down to my dad from my Italian Nonna. These recipes are near and dear to my heart since I was never able to meet my Italian grandparents.
With some help from my parents, I've decided to veganize the Tuscan dishes I grew up with, and share these veganized recipes with you. Luckily, some are already vegan (like today's recipe), so I'll be sharing those as well, since many aren't commonly know outside of Tuscany.
My first recipe I'd like to share is Panzanella, which is a bread salad dish typically served on hot summer days. I know that bread salad sounds a little weird, but trust me, it's actually quite delicious! And if you're a carb queen like myself, you'll love it!!
Panzanella is believed to have originated in Tuscany by peasants seeking to use up every last bit of their bread and letting none of it go to waste. It is essentially soaked stale bread mixed with tomatoes, onions, salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. Modern variations have added cucumber (and that's how I ate it growing up), so I've included that in the recipe below as it adds a nice crunch to the salad.
This is an easy-to-make dish that can be used as a side or a main, plus it is the perfect no-cook recipe for those hot summer days when you just want something light and refreshing for lunch or dinner!
Rustic Tuscan Summer Bread Salad aka Panzanella
1 loaf of day-old crusty Italian peasant bread like ciabatta, cut into large pieces
1 lb. of Roma tomatoes
1 large English cucumber, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 red onion, 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
Take your bread and chop or tear it up into large cubes or chunks. Throw it all in a large bowl and cover the chunks of bread with cool water so they are totally submerged. Soak the pieces of bread in 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).
Soaking the bread in a large bowl
Getting ready to chop the veggies
Wonderfully colorful and perfect for spring or summer!
Ah, panzanella is like a taste of my childhood! So simple, homey and delicious!