July and August mean hot weather and cool food. After all, who wants to work in a hot kitchen in the heat of summer? One of the best summer salads is the classic Italian dish panzanella. This dish, based on tomatoes and left-over bread, has several variations. Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan adds anchovies and capers; some versions add roasted pepper; in some, bread is toasted and cubed; and in Lucca, the bread is often soaked and quite mushy.
I prefer a simple panzanella with four main ingredients - ripe tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and cubes of toasted bread with a dressing of red wine vinegar and good olive oil, salt and pepper. If I have fresh basi, I will add some of that as well.
That’s it! Easy, fresh, tasty.
When visiting my family in New Mexico, and missing Italian food, I decided to make a panzanella salad, along with an olive oil and herb-based potato salad (Ina Garten’s French potato salad) to serve alongside grilled steaks.
A mash-up of Italian, French, and American dishes and great backyard barbecue food.
To make the panzanella salad, you’ll need::
Ripe tomatoes, medium dice, to equal about 2 cups (save any juices that escape during chopping)
I English cucumber, seeded, small to medium dice
I/4 of a medium red onion, diced small
3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons good olive oil (Italian is best!)
Salt and pepper to taste (I like French gray sea salt and coarse group pepper)
3 slices of firm rustic bread, toasted
1 large clove of fresh garlic, peeled and sliced in half
A few fresh basil leaves
Marinate the diced tomatoes (with any juices), cucumbers, and onion in the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper for 45 minutes to an hour.
Toast the bread and rub with the cut edge of the garlic. Cut into medium cubes and add to the marinated tomatoes 10 to 15 minutes before serving. The bread will be soft, having absorbed some of the juices, but still a bit firm.
If you prefer the bread a bit squishier, add it a little sooner. I prefer firmer bread, and yet find myself picking out those squishy bits when they are left in the bowl at the end of the meal.
-post by Joanne