03 July 2008

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

This is a perfect recipe for the 4th of July holiday - a fabulous salad that comes together quickly, uses the smallest amount of stovetop time (just enough to dip your tomatoes), and the longer it sits at room temperature, the better it tastes. You can toss it together well ahead of lunch or dinnertime, and forget about it.

I love a good bread salad. This one has lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and capers, along with a nice thick country bread; all soaked in a tart vinaigrette until the flavors meld together. The bread is stale and therefore doesn't get mushy but instead has a nice soft texture. I love to make this in the summer for a side dish, and it always goes quickly.


(adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis' Everyday Italian, 2005)


1/4 c. drained capers

2 Tbsp. + 1/4 c. red wine vinegar

12 oz. ciabatta or other country-style white bread, 2 to3 days old

8 ripe tomatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds total), cored and scored on the bottom

2 Tbsp. + 2/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. + 1/4 c. red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c. thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

1 c. diced cucumber chunks (salted and drained on paper towel)

1/4 c. pitted kalamata olives, halved lengthwise

Soak the capers in 2 Tbsp. of vinegar in a small bowl for 10 minutes. Drain.

Cut the crust off of the bread. If it is not quite “stale” enough: Cut into 2-inch slices and toast in a 350 F oven for about 20-30 minutes. Once toasted, cut or tear bread into 1 inch cubes and set aside.

Submerge the tomatoes into a large saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water to cool slightly. Using a small sharp paring knife, peel off the tomato skins. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk 2/3 c. of oil, 1/4 c. of vinegar, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the bread cubes, tomatoes, and basil; toss to combine.

Transfer half of the bread mixture to a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish. Arrange half of the cucumbers, drained capers, and olives over the bread mixture. Repeat layering with the remaining bread mixture, then the remaining roasted peppers, capers, and olives.

Cover the salad and let stand at room temperature for flavors to blend, at least 1 hour (and up to 8 hours).

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