I heard of panzanella several years ago watching Giada on one of my regular Food-Network binges back when I had access to cable. The theory was completely appealing to me — bread, check. Tomatoes, check — but I never got around to trying one.
In Italy earlier this summer I had the opportunity to try this dish not once but twice. And, well, all my bread-salad dreams came true. Isn’t it funny how the simplest foods can just be so delicious? I mean, this is a dish that depends on stale bread and tomatoes on the verge of being overripe. And when the days are their hottest, you don’t even have to turn on the oven. Perfect.
PanzanellaThis may be less authentically Italian with the addition of chickpeas and feta, but it is still delish. It’s a great light side or can be a substantial dinner. The ingredients can be changed around to suit what you have; the only essentials are the bread and the tomatoes.
For the salad:
- 2 slices stale country bread, cut or torn into rough cubes
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups), juice reserved
- 2 small cucumbers, seeded and diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 cup chickpeas
- 2 oz crumbled feta
- 1 tbsp each butter and olive oil
- sprinkle of oregano, rosemary, or other herb(s)
- salt and pepper
For the dressing:
- 2 tbsp reserved tomato juice
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced into a paste
- Heat butter and oil in a pan over medium heat. Once butter melts, add bread cubes and stir well to coat. Sprinkle if desired with herbs, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and golden-brown. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, cut the veggies. Drain some of the juice off the tomatoes for the dressing (don’t obsess about getting all of it, you just need a few tablespoons) and toss remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper.
- Mix together tomato juice, vinegar and garlic; slowly whisk in oil. Alternatively, you can put everything into a tightly sealed jar and shake, or my current favorite method, use a milk frother!
- Add bread onto the salad, making sure to get all the yummy crumbs out of the pan, and pour dressing over top. Toss gently and serve.