Panzanella – Tomato and Bread Salad!
When summer gives you gorgeous, juicy, ripe tomatoes, first make a BLT and then make this amazing salad.
Panzanella started in Italy as a way to use up stale bread. Originally an onion based salad, tomatoes were thankfully added sometime in the 20th century. Toasted cubes of bread soak up the juices from the tomatoes and dressing. SO good.
This is such a great basic idea for a salad….you can make it simply with only the basic ingredients of tomatoes, bread, and dressing or jazz it up a bit with more crunchy items, olives, capers, etc.
Just be sure to use the best, freshest tomatoes you can find.
Here’s what you need:
Crusty Bread, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Celery, Garlic, Olive Oil, White Wine Vinegar, Olives, Capers (both optional), Dijon Mustard, Basil, Salt & Pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
To make some nice toasty bread cubes (homemade croutons), cut some crusty bread – I’m using 1/2 of a French baguette – into big cubes. Sprinkle just a bit of olive oil – maybe 1 Tablespoon at the most – over the cubes and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Bake at 400 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown and toasty. You can do this faster under the broiler, but I almost always burn my croutons under the broiler so the oven is a safer option for me.
Heirloom tomatoes. Look at all the colors!
I bootlegged these tomatoes (and some steaks) back from a brief stop in Kansas City. Moving south and losing all of my sunny gardening space has made me a hoarder of good, homegrown tomatoes. If you live in KC, get thee to McGonigle’s Market where they have boxes and boxes of these amazing tomatoes. They also have the best steaks in the world so you should pick up a few while you’re there. (No, I’m not a relative or being paid to say that…just a big fan. My dad has shopped there for so many years that they great him by name when he comes into the store…kind of like “Norm!” on Cheers.)
Chop the tomatoes into nice big pieces. I have about 4 cups of tomatoes.
If you want to add a bit of crunch to your salad, peel, seed, and chop up a cucumber and 1 rib of celery.
The dressing is a quick, basic vinaigrette. In a small bowl, combine 1 small clove of minced or pressed garlic, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar.
Whisk in 3 Tablespoons of good olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.
Put the veggies, tomatoes, and bread cubes in a large bowl, add the dressing and toss to combine.
If you want to add a bit more tang, add a few chopped calamata olives and 1 teaspoon of capers. Toss some strips of freshly chopped basil on top for a bright, finishing flavor.
The salad is best if you let it sit at room temperature (please NEVER put good tomatoes in the refrigerator) for about 20 minutes. The bread will start to soak up the juices and dressing and will start to slightly soften. If you want the bread to remain crunchy like croutons, toss the tomatoes, veggies, and dressing first and add the bread just before serving.
Simple and delicious. Panzanella is certainly one of the best things about summer!
Here’s the recipe: