Panzanella is a Tuscan bread and tomato salad. I’d heard of it before, I have at least two cook books that have different recipes for it, but I’ve never had occasion to make it since we rarely have enough stale leftover bread to do anything with other than to make breadcrumbs.
Which brings me to today and the loaf of ciabatta that I had bought a few days ago and put up on top of the fridge so food thief the dog couldn’t get it. This is a photo of the last loaf of bread that I bought- only a week ago. You will notice that the bread bag is still in the grocery bag, but upon closer inspection the bread is absent from the bag. You will also note that food thief looks decidedly innocent and guilt free.
Well you know the saying, out of sight, out of mind… so I had totally forgotten about it until it fell off the top of the fridge when I opened the freezer. Oops. So then I suddenly had a whole stale loaf of bread.
According to wikipedia, Florentine traditionalists would highly disapprove of this version. But on one of those spring days when there is still snow on the ground and you’re yearning for all the salads of summer, this totally hit the spot.
Serves: 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side
Time: 10-20 mins for bread toasting, 15 min assembly of other ingredients.
You Will Need:
- 1 loaf of ciabatta -probably any bread would do 🙂
- few tbsp of olive oil or canola or butter
- 1 red pepper, 1 yellow or orange pepper, medium dice
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
- feta cheese
- handful of chopped parsley
- olives- the kalamata ones if you like them – I don’t, so I left them out 🙂
For the dressing *I like my dressing more vinegary, a regular ratio is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, but I prefer mine closer to 1:1. I also prefer canola to olive oil for a lot of dressings as sometimes I find olive oil too overpowering
- juice of one lemon
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup canola oil – or olive oil if you prefer (you can do more oil if you find the dressing too vinegary for your taste)
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp mint
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- several grinds fresh pepper
First cube your loaf and spread out evenly on a cookie sheet. Most instructions for making croutons and the like call for drizzling the bread with oil. I prefer to put a few tbsp of oil in a small dish and use a pastry brush to brush/dot it all over the bread. You get much better coverage and use much less oil than you do when you ‘drizzle’. Sprinkle bread cubes with a light bit of salt (the feta will be salty, so don’t over do it on the bread) and a few grinds of pepper. Place in a 375F oven and every 5-7 min give it a stir. Depending on how stale your bread was to begin with, you might not need to do a full 20 min.
Mix all ingredients for dressing, and give it a good whisk and a taste. As I mentioned, I like my dressings more on the vinegary side, so you may want to add more oil.
Chop all the veggies except the parsley into one big bowl. When your bread cubes are toasty, pull them out of the oven, let them cool for a few min. If they are still a bit warm when you add them to the veggies that’s fine. Mix in the dressing and stir around. If you had a particularly large loaf of bread, don’t feel obligated to add all your bread- you can save some for croutons for something else. It’s nice if you let this sit for about 10 minutes to let the flavours all mix together and give your bread a chance to soak in a bit of the dressing (don’t worry, it won’t get soggy), or you can serve it right away.
To finish, sprinkle each serving with feta and parsley.