Saturday, August 14, 2010

Panzanella—Bread Salad

Cooking Italy Assignment
Panzanella—Bread Salad, p554

Panzanella is a salad, long on tomatoes, with bread, assorted raw veggies and a tasty dressing. I'm sure there are as many variations of this are there are Italian cooks. For this assignment, I stuck pretty closely to Hazan's recipe, since she's usually a good source and I've never made this before.

The dressing starts with a base of garlic, capers, and anchovies.

These are mooshed together with a mortar and pestle or with a spoon against the side of a bowl. (You could use a food processor, blender, etc., but they seem a bit much for such a small volume.)

Once mooshed, the mixture is turned into the serving bowl and stirred together with some chopped bell pepper, plus oil and vinegar.

Now you toast some stale bread with the crusts removed and cut it into to cubes. Personally, I'm a crust person, and I wouldn't do the de-crusting again. I think the crusts would add a nice texture and it's a shame to loose all the flavor. (Although they do give a pile of munchies for the cook.) A puréed tomato is stirred into the bread cubes and left to soak for a while.

Meanwhile, more tomatoes and some cucumber are cubed. And some thin slices of onion are soaked and squeezed and soaked and drained and soaked and drained, and so on till you're reading to use them. Manhandling the onions in this way seems to soften the taste of the raw onions. Of course, if you Plan Ahea... you'll start this process before you start the rest of the salad, otherwise everything has to wait a bit on the onions.

Now the bread cubes and cut-up veggies get tossed together with the dressing and bell pepper and some freshly ground black pepper. And there you have it, a delicious summery salad.

The half recipe I made served the two of us amply, so I think Hazan's projected 4-6 servings for the full recipe is on target. (This book does seem to have problems with the servings.) As I was mixing the salad I keep thinking that some chopped basil would be a nice addition. I've noted this in my book for the next time.


  1. Your salad looks great Kaye - I am really looking forward to making it when summer comes around here.

  2. I think the whole rings of onion are mainly that way for the visual aspect. I can't imagine any other reason to have the onion pieces that large.
    Your salad looks marvelous! Good for you, sticking to time, maybe you could add that nagging ingredient after you taste the original recipe...maybe as a garnish?
    Great job!

  3. We do not like wet bread, so am a little worried about this, hoping the toasting of the bread will keep it dry...yours looks wonderful, love that dish!

  4. Kaye, You're spot on about the fresh basil. I've been making Tuscan Bread Salad for years and fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano) are a critical part of it.