Oh the joys of summer! On the top of the list is fresh, ripe tomatoes, garden cucumbers, and basil that the more you cut, the more it grows. And the tomatoes… Beefsteak, early girls, heirlooms,roma, plum, not to mention the all the varieties of cherry and grape! Finally the heat is upon us and the garden has finally started to be promising. This classic Tuscan bread salad is a perfect thing to make with the bounty. Panzanella at its core is really a way to use up crusty bread that has gotten hard and to celebrate perfect summer tomatoes. It is a cooling summertime salad that relies on the bread as the “filler” to soak up the juices of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as the olive oil you pour over everything.
Once a poor man’s dish, it has become rather trendy. Once you make it, you’ll see why. It’s a great way to show off wonderful, fresh, summer produce and with so few ingredients you will be amazed at how good it is. I am serving my with my leftover Herb and Dijon Mustard Glazed Turkey Breasts I had for dinner last night! You can serve the salad with any of your favorite grilled meats or it will stand alone for a great Meatless Meal.
Enjoy and Happy Cooking,
4 cups tomatoes, cut into large chunks
4 cups day old (somewhat dry and hard) crusty bread (Italian or French loaf), cut into chunks the same size as the tomatoes*
1 cucumber, skinned and seeded, cut into large chunks
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, torn into little pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
* If you don’t have hard old bread sitting around, you can take fresh crusty bread, cut it into big cubes, lay the cubes out on a baking sheet, and put in a 300°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until the outer edges have dried out a bit (not toasted, just dried). If you use fresh bread without doing this, the bread may disintegrate into mush in the salad.
Mix everything together and let marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, up to 12 hours. Do not refrigerate or you will destroy the texture of the tomatoes.
Serve at room temperature.