I composed most of this post over a month ago when the summer was still in full force and therefore tomatoes were at their peak. Life got busy, time passed and finally I'm getting around to sharing this beauty.
One of my go to meals each summer is the versatile Panzanella, or Tuscan Bread Salad. If you're a breadaholic, like me, it's a wonderful summer comfort food. I'll never forget the first time I made it, I enjoyed it so much that I have the time, place and company etched in my food memory bank (a fun place to visit!).
The basic premise of cubes of stale bread, a good olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing, tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh basil, can be taken in many directions. I usually add white beans and chunks of Parmesan which makes it just delicious. I have substituted zucchini, green beans, edamame, peas and also added leftover chicken or pork. Some bacon would be nice although surprisingly I haven't tried that yet.
Traditionally the bread used is stale, not toasted. It's a great 'make ahead' meal; it really needs to sit together in your refrigerator for a couple of hours to give adequate time to marry the flavors and for the bread to soak the yummy dressing.
Summer may be over but we are still harvesting cucumbers from our teeny tiny vegetable patch and the tomatoes are holding their own in our local farm store. So, if you're like me and desperately holding on to the last remnants of summer, make yourself a panzanella salad.
adapted from an Everday Food Recipe
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
3 cups of cubed stale crusty bread (preferably wholewheat)
1 lb plum tomatoes (or whatever variety you have), cut into bitesize pieces
1 English cucumber, chopped into bitesize pieces, skin on
1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
4 oz Parmesan cheese, cut roughly into small chunks
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- Using a large bowl, mix the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.
- Add the beans, bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and cheese
- Toss together gently to ensure all ingredients are coated with the dressing
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours an up to 8 hours.
- Add the basil just before serving
A couple of notes on the recipe:
- This is a great leftover "user upper"; add whatever is lurking in your fridge (within reason!) See below for photos of my leftover panzanella.
- We have not been growing english cucumbers, so I roughly peel the kirbys, deseed them and chop.
- This is very tasty as a side with fish or on it's own as a vegetarian dinner.