Thursday, May 31, 2007


Panzanella is Italian bread salad. Doesn't it look so juicy and delicious?

Panzanella (recipe serves 6):

8 oz. day-old bread (you can use French or Italian bread, but I prefer using Rustic Loaf - Panino Rustico - which you can find at Italian food stores or specialty bakeries)
8-10 medium-size, really ripe, juicy tomatoes that are about to burst
1 small red onion
20 fresh basil leaves
4 tablespoons of best-quality olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

First, prep the tomatoes: Slice them in wedges, place them in a strainer over a bowl, salt them generously, and let them sweat it out. The juice will run into the bowl (you might even want to squish the tomatoes a bit with your hands to get more juice). While you're waiting for the tomatoes, cut the bread into 2-inch slices. You're going to take that tomato juice and cover the bread with it in a shallow bowl or casserole. If the juice doesn't completely cover the bread, go ahead and pour a little water in, so the bread gets thoroughly covered by juice. Let it sit, soaking up all those delicious juices, for about 5-10 minutes or so. Then, squeeze the juice from the bread, leaving just a little in there, so the bread is nice and spongy and squishy. Then crumble the moist bread into a bowl.

Next, chop the red onion into delicate little slices, and you can do the same with the basil. It's also fun to add a chopped cucumber or maybe some shaved Parmesan cheese for extra deliciousness. Throw those all in a bowl with the tomatoes. Add your olive oil and vinegar. Add the bread, then take off your rings and really squish it all together with your hands (you should be feeling really Tuscan about now). Finally, season with salt and pepper to your exact liking.
Isn't that so easy? After it's finished, I usually refrigerate it for 30-45 minutes, covered, before serving so the juices really get in there and mix around (if you do this, re-squish with your hands right before serving). Oh! And, if you don't have any day-old bread hanging around, here's a trick: Slice your bread, then set your oven to 'low' or 'warm' and put the slices directly on the racks for about 10 minutes. The bread should get nice and stale without getting too toasty.
Not usually a kid friendly meal, but for a fun date night yummy. Try serving it with prosciutto-wrapped slices of cantaloupe and honeydew. Then for dessert take some really ripe strawberries, cut them in half and coat them with balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour then enjoy. My mouth's already watering.