Oh my. Oh my. Oh my. Peasant food fit for kings and queens.
Of every vegetable recipes I've tried since April, this may be the one that qualifies as "life-changing". How did I get to be this many 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. That's why I call this My "First" Panzanella: there will be a second and a third. My advice? Make it soon so you get it as often as possible until fall, until 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 three sources, 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? It's very early in tomato season and tonight's tomatoes were not the best ever although did improve 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 ...
"Made this tonight - amazing." ~ Anonymous
RECIPE for MY FIRST PANZANELLA
Time to table: 30 minutes
Serves 4 generously
4 small-ish pieces good, whole-grain country-style bread
1 clove garlic
2 - 3 large very ripe tomatoes
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 maldon salt
Rub garlic clove on both sides of the bread slices. If fresh, set aside to dry 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!
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
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.
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MORE TOMATO SALADS: WORTHY OF GOOD SUMMER TOMATOES~ Never Take a Good Tomato for Granted: Twelve Favorite Tomato Recipes ~
~ Old Liz's Old-Fashioned Cucumber & Tomato Salad ~
~ Fattoush (Traditional Middle Eastern Salad) ~
~ Jerusalem Salad ~
~ more tomato recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Favorite Summer Salad Recipes ~
~ Panzanella ~
~ Fresh Corn & Tomato Salad ~
~ Greek Pasta Salad ~
~ more tomato recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
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