The final recipe on our culinary tour of Tuscany ends with the traditional Panzanella Salad. Typical of rustic Tuscan cuisine, nothing is wasted, including day-old, or stale bread. It finds a brand new, vibrant life tossed with olive oil, vinegar, fresh basil and hearty chunks of freshly picked tomatoes.
To elevate the flavors, I used a mix of regular and heirloom tomatoes and rubbed a bit of fresh, raw garlic on the bread. If there ever was a dish that was meant to be enjoyed on a bright summer day, this is the one. I attempted to grow heirlooms a few times in the past, but nothing like being a complete failure in the garden to humble my ego in the kitchen.
So I'm trying again. Hopefully, in a few weeks, Katherine can take pictures of my very own tomatoes.
Be sure to use stale bread that can stand up to a deep soaking of vinegar. Anything fresher will disintegrate and leave you with a mushy salad. If you want to honor the region, stick with a firm Ciabatta. But even a crunchy baguette or sourdough will work. The idea is for the bread to soak up the tomato juice, olive oil, and vinegar, so it transforms into something delightful than just plain old bread.
Falls in love with a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio
Stir memories of a sidewalk cafe in the Piazza or Signoria
In the spice chest, you'll find just basil - beautiful, fragrant basil
Suggestions and Alternatives
- To keep it traditional and to make a crunchier salad, you can toss in some finely chopped red onions.
- I added cucumbers to our recipe, but the authentic version is prepared without. Consider this version.
- To make the salad a main dish, add a good amount of fresh mozzarella or slices of prosciutto
- For a lighthearted alternative to a glass of Pinot Grigio, you can try a Lavender Peach Wine Slushy from Hunger|Thirst|Play.
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- 10 leaves basil fresh
- 1 whole English cucumber fresh
- 4 whole Heirloom tomatoes quality
- 1/2 loaf day old bread
- 1/2 cup olive oil quality
- 5 tablespoons champagne vinegar quality
- 2 tablespoons sea salt quality
- In a large bowl, peel one English seedless cucumber then dice to one inch. cubes.
- Wash and dice four heirloom tomatoes to one-inch cubes, add two tbs. Sea salt to tomatoes and cucumber and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Take 1/2 loaf day old bread and dice to one-inch cubes.
- After tomatoes and cucumber have marinated with sea salt for 10 minutes fold in day old bread.
- Let sit for 1 minute.
- Add five tbs. champagne vinegar and fold for one minute then let sit for one minute.
- Add four tbs. Olive Oil and fold for another minute.
- Tear 10 fresh basil leaves and fold for another minute.
- Serve immediately on chilled plate or bowl and drizzle four tbs. Olive oil over each plate.