Day 89: My "First" Panzanella ♥

Panzanella, a delicious Italian bread & tomato saladOh my. Oh my. Oh my. Peasant food fit for kings and queens.

Of everything tried since April, this may be the one recipe that qualifies as 'life-changing'. How did I get to be ?? years old without panzanella? All those wasted years! (Silly? Of course. But fellow foodies will understand!)

There was no getting enough of this tomato and bread salad, even to the point of setting aside perfectly delicious grilled chicken to make room on the plate (and elsewhere) for more. I could (and basically did) make a meal out of it.

I'll make it again (tomorrow tonight?) and again (the night after?) ... as long as the tomatoes last, that is.

My advice? Make it soon (tonight?) so you get it as often as possible til fall, til the very last of good tomatoes.

A bit of research shows that panzanella is more concept than recipe. In fact, tonight's version was inspired by Mark Bittman, a 1993 issue of Gourmet magazine and, well, my own food sensibility. Some versions seem to feature bread as the backbone ('bread salad with tomato') where tonight's star was the tomatoes ('tomato salad with bits of bread'). The pieces of grilled bread were delicious - but to my taste, the bread:tomato proportion was perfect.

This may be a dish where it's best to use the 'best' of each ingredient, the best tomatoes, the best bread, the best salt, the best olive oil, the best vinegar, etc.

That said -- maybe not. Tonight's tomatoes were not the best ever (though improved, I believe, with blanching) and the red wine vinegar was a prosaic supermarket brand.

And as you can tell by my drool on the page, it was still delicious ...

Update: And now Chocolate & Zucchini has posted an "authentic" recipe. I have been wanting to try a Quick Panzanella (see Day 111), just chopped tomatoes, no blanching. You choose!

MY FIRST PANZANELLA
Active time: ?? maybe 30 minutes?
Time to table: ?? maybe 30 minutes?
Serves 4 generously


4 small-ish pieces good, whole-grain country-style bread (see ALANNA's TIPS)
1 clove garlic

2 - 3 large very ripe tomatoes (see TIPS)
1/4 - 1/2 red onion, chopped fine
2 - 3 tablespoons capers (added an important texture and snap of salt)
10 or so fresh basil leaves, chopped
peeled / diced cucumber (optional, didn't use tonight)
diced fresh mozzarella (optional, didn't use tonight)

about 2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
about 2 tablespoons good olive oil
good salt such as fleur de sel or sea salt

Rub garlic clove on both sides of the bread slices. If fresh, set aside to day a bit. Grill or toast, then tear into bite-size pieces.

Place a colander over the serving bowl you'll use.

Blanch/skin the tomatoes by filling a small pot with water and bringing the water to a boil. Drop each tomato into the boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skin starts to crack. With a fork, transfer the hot tomatoes to the colander. With the fork still piercing the tomato, use it as a handle while you use a small knife to easily peel away the skin. Cut a cone-shaped section out of the stem end, removing as much of the core as you can. Cut the tomato in half. Use your fingers to remove the seeds and discard. Chop the tomato into bite-size pieces and return to the colander. Let the tomato juices collect in the serving bowl beneath.

Add the onion, capers, basil and any other ingredients to the colander and combine. If you're preparing this in advance, stop here until ready to serve.

Stir the bread pieces into the tomato mixture.

Whisk the vinegar and olive oil into the tomato juices that have collected. Season to taste with salt. Stir in the tomato/bread mixture. Serve. Enjoy! Be a glutton!

NUTRITION ESTIMATE
Per Serving: 217 Cal (30% from Fat, 11% from Protein, 59% from Carb); 6 g Protein; 7 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 33 g Carb; 4 g Fiber; 17 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 822 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 4 points


ALANNA's TIPS
  • Bread: This is a great way to use up stale bread. If it's already quite dry, you might skip the grilling or toasting though the grilled flavor contrasts beautifully with the acidic tomatoes - quite addictively.
  • Tomatoes: The blanching makes it easier to peel the tomatoes and cooks less-than-perfect tomatoes a bit so they'll give off more flavor and juice. Still, you might peel them without blanching and some recipes don't call for peeling at all.

3 comments:

Made this tonight - amazing. We have a lot of tomatoes this year and this is a great way to showcase their flavor! Thanks - great blog!

Oh THANK YOU for taking the time to say: I called this my "first" panzanella because I knew it would be something I'd make again and again. Of all the great vegetables I ate in the first year, it was certainly the most memorable. You've got me hoping the Missouri tomatoes will be in tomorrow: if so, I'm changing Saturday's menu!!

I've wanted to make this, so thank you for reminding me and giving us such good tips. It always looks so delicious and with all the wonderful tomatoes right now at their peak, it would be perfect.

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna