Panzanella is a lovely Italian bread salad – and just perfect for a quick summer lunch or a light supper. The dish is anchored with chunky croutons and tomatoes and, frankly, whatever other ingredients you already have on hand. The sky’s the limit here: we’ve tasted versions with ingredients as varied as chopped eggs, cold, sliced potatoes, and seedless cucumbers. Finished with a vinegary dressing that gently softens the croutons as it soaks in, this one’s just begging to be served up with a cold glass of Sancerre.
an unsliced loaf of really great bread
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
a jar or two of roasted red peppers, drained and diced (or roast your own, if you have the time and inclination)
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
6 plum tomatoes, quartered
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 small red onion, diced
a handful of capers
1/4 c. pitted black olives
1/4 c. basil leaves
1/4 c. flat-leaf parsley
Drop the tomatoes into a colander large enough to hold them and let them hang out in the sink or over a bowl for about an hour to drain a bit.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Cut the bread into roughly uniform cubes, about 1.5 inches each. Toss them onto a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Hit them with some salt and pepper and give the whole batch a gentle toss with your hands, being sure to evenly coat them with the seasonings. Pop them in the oven for about 30 minutes or so, until they’re crunchy and nicely toasted. (You can also gently fry the bread in a large saute pan filmed with olive oil, if you like.)
Combine the red wine vinegar with 2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, whisk and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, place the diced peppers, cucumbers, red onions, capers, olives, basil and parsley. Add the drained tomatoes and croutons. Awaken the dressing by giving it a quick whisk and then drizzle it over the salad. Gently toss the salad and turn it out onto a large serving platter with some tongs.