Panzanella - Tuscan Bread Salad

This is one of the best examples of the greatness of Tuscan cooking taking truly ordinary ingredients and turning them into something extraordinary. You can make it a day ahead if needed.The flavor and texture are best when you use European style breads without eggs or fat like a ciabatta, Italian loaf, baguettes or a whole wheat.

1 pound stale bread, at least 2-3 days old
1 clove garlic
3 tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 red onions, thinly sliced like paper
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Hand full fresh basil leaves torn or coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup extra- virgin olive oil
1/4 cup +/- good red wine vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Soak the sliced stale bread in cold water for 10 minutes if it is bone dry. Discard the bottom crust from the bread as it is tough. It is easy to do once it is soaked.
2. Rub the inside of the serving bowl with a clove of garlic and then discard. Squeeze out the water from the bread using only the palms of your hands, and crumble the bread into a serving bowl. Add tomatoes, cucumber, onions and basil and toss well. Drizzle with the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper; mix well. The bread will break up more.
3. Mix well and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
4. Before serving, add vinegar and mix again. Serve with olive oil, vinegar, and salt on the side.

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Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie