Panzanella Salad – Summer’s Last Hurrah

Morning fog is creeping in every morning and staying later each day here, a sure sign that summer is departing soon. We had a late start this season for our tomato plants and my friend said we’d have plenty of tomatoes well into October. So perhaps this is not quite the last hurrah for us, but it might be for a lot of you. I thought I’d do a classic Panzanella salad, one of my favorite things to do when I have ripe, juicy tomatoes and some stale bread around.

No, no, this isn’t my usual pan con tomate. We’re not in Spain tonight, we’re just a bit over to the East in Italy. Panzanella salad, the Italian tomato and bread salad, is just as simple as the Spanish pan con tomate, and every bit as good. With stale bread, juicy tomatoes, and fragrant basil, tossed together with a simple vinaigrette, it can hardly get much simpler.

Just because it is simple to make doesn’t mean there isn’t a trick or two to it. Tossing tough stale bread and delicate tomatoes too roughly can result in a pile of bread colored by red mush. It still tastes good, I’m sure, but it won’t look very pretty.

What I do is make a dressing, dress the tomatoes first, get the juices running and mingling with the vinaigrette for a couple of minutes, then pour that juicy, delicious elixir over the bread cubes (in a separate bowl), leaving the tomato pieces out for the moment. I let the bread and tomato juice soak for five minutes, then toss everything together, adding the basil right at the very end. This way, my salad is just as pretty as it is delicious. Every time.

Panzanella salad

  • serves 2 hungry people or 4-6 as part of a larger meal
  • 4 large heirloom tomatoes (about 1,200g or 2.5lbs)
  • 3 thick slices of crusty bread cut into cubes (about 150g or 5oz)
  • a handful of basil (I used purple basil and tiny Greek basil for mine.)

Vinaigrette

  • 5 T vinegar (I like a combination of sherry vinegar and red wine vinegar.)
  • 8 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a drop of honey
Panzanella Salad - Summer’s Last Hurrah

I feel funny giving a recipe for this. To me, making a vinaigrette is something so personal, that no two people will make it the same way. Plus, the components of vinaigrette, olive oil, vinegar, and even salt, don’t taste the same from one brand or producer to another. I guess I’ll just tell you roughly how I do mine for the Panzanella salad, and you can follow it or just make your own favorite vinaigrette. 

I usually put mustard in my vinegar, and a smidgen of light honey to keep it in check. I don’t in this one, however. I find that the mustard makes it just a bit too astringent for this purpose. I also use more vinegar in my Panzanella vinaigrette than in my usual one, as it needs to add flavor to the bland bread.

In a bowl large enough to toss everything together, add the vinegar, a pinch of salt, and a drop of honey. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mix well, taste it to see if it needs a bit more salt. Add the oil and stir to mix again. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and add to the bowl with the vinaigrette. Toss to mix and let sit for 2-3 minutes, tossing once or twice more during that time.

Meanwhile, cut the stale bread into cubes. Take a bowl pretty enough to serve the salad in and throw the bread in it. When the tomatoes in the vinaigrette are ready, you should see lots of delicious juices in the tomato-vinaigrette bowl, pour the juices over the bread cubes in the pretty bowl. Toss the bread gently to coat with the juice. Let’s sit for about five minutes.

When you’re ready to serve, pour the bread cubes back into the tomato bowl, and toss well. Tear basil leaves and toss well with the bread and tomatoes (save a few pretty leaves for garnish). Add a few turns of the peppermill and toss again to mix.

Taste the salad, and add more salt or vinegar as needed. Give the pretty serving bowl a quick wipe, then pour the salad into it. Top with the rest of the basil, I also like to pour fresh olive oil over the whole thing, just lightly, only to add some freshness to it. There you have it, Panzanella salad, delicious and gorgeous to boot.


Reviews

Delightful Panzanella Salad Recipe!

Rated 5 out of 5
October 17, 2023

I recently tried the Panzanella Salad recipe, and it was a true taste sensation! This recipe is a game-changer, offering a refreshing twist on a classic Italian dish. The combination of fresh, colorful ingredients like ripe tomatoes, crusty bread, and aromatic basil leaves makes for a mouthwatering and satisfying salad. The step-by-step instructions were easy to follow, even for a beginner like me, and the final result was a burst of Mediterranean flavors that left me craving more. If you’re looking for a delicious and easy-to-make salad that’s perfect for any occasion, this Panzanella Salad recipe is a must-try.

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