Monday, August 18, 2014

Under My Panzanella, ella, ella, ella…

I’ve never been a big fan of panzanella salad. I love the flavors in the dish, but stale, soggy bread just isn’t something I crave. The sogginess is understandable, as this dish was invented as a way to ingest rock-hard bread, but now that we’re just making it for fun, and not to avoid starvation, we can tweak a few things for texture’s sake.

The key is frying the bread cubes in loads of olive oil, in a skillet, which obviously makes them crispy, but the healthful fat also soaks in and renders them semi-waterproof, or should I say dressing-proof. The same goes for the dusting of Parmesan we apply halfway through.

You may be tempted to save some work and bake them in the oven, but don’t. By using the pan, you get nice, crispy surfaces, but the very center of the crouton stays just a touch chewy. The oven tends to dry the bread out, and you don’t get the same texture.

The gorgeous pool of tomato juices, oil, and wine vinegar will still soak in, and soften the bread, but you’ll still get a little crunch in each bite. For me this makes all the difference in the world. I know adding things like peppers, onions, and cucumbers is quite common, but I think they simply get in the way.

Having said that, it’s your “little swamp,” which is what “Panzanella” translates to, so throw in what you like. Speaking of which, I’m not giving ingredient amounts. I’ll give a ratio, and maybe a recommendation or two, but this isn’t the kind of recipe where you should be washing measuring cups and spoons. Taste and adust, and as always, enjoy!

(I like equal parts bread cubes to tomato salad)

For the bread:
stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, soaked well with olive oil
enough finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano to cover bread
-- fry until crispy and browned

For the tomato salad:
cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of sugar
a little minced garlic
equal parts red wine vinegar and olive oil, to dress generously (add enough to create a very “swampy” mixture)
freshly sliced basil


Unknown said...

This recipe seems interesting..:) I love tomatoes and will surely try this at home..:) thank you so much for sharing..:)

Rosa said...

I made this for dinner tonight and it was perfect. Two of us devoured a giant bowl. :)

oiacob said...

I combine a bit of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar and it works well too!

Unknown said...

The title xD delicious as usual!

Mike said...

I see a lot of recipes where people don't soak the bread in water, which is the way traditional panzanella is made. I personally sprinkle water+vinegar on the bread to get it wet before I incorporate it to the vegetables.

Unknown said...

The (native) Italian wife of a co-worker made this dish and brought it into the office. I had never heard of it before. It was out of this world delicious! Tried to get the "secret" recipe but she wouldn't give it up. I have searched all over for it ever since and I believe this is exactly it! I ate the whole thing over the course of the day and evening. Delicious!!! Thank you so much!!!

Unknown said...

Delicious! My only mistake was using maybe 25% too few tomatoes, so there wasn't quite enough of that fresh juice to soak in. I back filled with oil and vinegar, but more juice would have been better,

I added shredded rotisserie chicken to get some protein in there; a perfect light summer dinner.

MaryJane said...

I always keep a lot of juicy Compari tomatoes since they taste great, so I use one along with a colorful assortment of cherry tomatoes from Lowe’s wonderful Tomato Bar. I started fixing this wonderful salad whenever we have my husband’s great spaghetti - it’s a win-win!