Hands down Panzanella is one of my favorite summer salads. On the surface it’s a simple salad with just a handful of humble ingredients thrown together.
Bread, tomatoes, red onions, basil and a simple dressing with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Pretty lame, right?
You couldn’t be farther from the truth. Like almost all incredible seasonal and rustic antipasti, this one also depends on the quality of the ingredients. Which is why I have tweaked the traditional recipe to my liking and I humbly proclaim it’s better because of it.
This roots of this dish lie in the copious amounts if extra bread at the end of a Tuscan baker’s day. The stale bread is soaked in water, squeezed out of extra liquid and tossed with lovely tomatoes and all the delightful ingredients listed above.
Personally I don’t care for the notion of water logged bread so I toast the bread cubes with olive oil a light golden brown.
I have also foregone gorgeous blood red, beautiful and perfectly round tomatoes for its ugly duckling cousins – the heirloom tomatoes. Because with the lovely hybrid tomatoes, what you gain in looks, you lose in flavor (and heart and soul). Hmmm….any celebrity come to mind, much?
Hybrid tomatoes are far from pretty with their odd colors, bumps and over all ugly shapes reminiscent of a camel with one hump too many. But in the height of summer with the farmers markets in full swing, they are just ooh la la in terms of sweetness and flavor.
Because I have forgone, soaking the bread, I am marinating the salad for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the refrigerator allowing the bread to sop up all of that delicious dressing.
The salad at the end is bursting with the scent of basil and so refreshing it will have you doing a little dance with each bite…reminding all of us that the day is bright and the sun is shining and some days that is all you need for a little happiness.