Thursday, July 26, 2012

Panzanella

     Nothing says Summer like ripe tomatoes bursting with acid-y, sweet juices. You can eat them right out of hand just like any other fruit, (and they are a fruit, actually a berry).  Or maybe you like them just on a plate with a shake of sea salt, maybe with cheese on toast. And don't forget a classic Caprese. Or roasted for a quick but robust pasta sauce. But for my money it's gotta be a hearty Panzanella- tomato and bread salad.

  
     Panzanella is a simple salad although it also lends itself to complication if you like things complicated (and I do). It's paramount, however, that the two main ingredients have the right personalities. The tomatoes must be local (or better yet, homegrown) and fully ripened (as in juicy). Don't even bother making this with those rubber balls you purchased at the super market (why did you do that?). And the bread must be chewy and dense. Ciabatta, or a crusty sour dough or a baguette. When the chopped tomatoes meet the torn bread, it's deliciously symbiotic. I used beefsteak toms 'cause that's what I found at the farm stands over the weekend. But tomatoes come in 1000 varieties so don't hold back, if you have something appropriate ripening on your windowsill,  go for it. 
     The bread, well I used a multi-grain studded with black sesame seeds and flax seed (I told you I like things complicated). This held up well to the tomato juices, soaking it up but still maintaining a chewy texture.
     And then it got more complicated. In addition to the two eponymous ingredients, I added red onion (Panzanella was originally a salad of bread and onions after all), feta, basil and mixed greens, oh, and a selection of olives. All this was dressed, but not over dressed,  with a zingy garlic vinaigrette. The result was light, refreshing, filling and assolutamente squisita!



Panzanella- Tomato and Bread Salad

3 large tomatoes
4 ounces of hearty bread
1 cup mixed greens
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
10-12 basil leaves
2 ounces feta cheese
8-10 olives (kalamata, cerignola, black oil, etc)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic 
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Chop tomatoes into large bite size pieces and tear the bread into pieces of a similar size. Place both in a large bowl. Add mixed greens, basil, onion, olives and crumbled feta. Let this sit  while you make the dressing so the bread can soak up the tomato juices. In a small bowl add the garlic and cover with olive oil add the vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Gently toss the salad just until everything is well combined. Divide between 4 plates and dress with vinaigrette.




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