In my last blog I promised an Italian salad called Panzanella, and it’s a wonderful way to use up leftover stale bread. Personally, I would use sourdough, but any good crusty, homemade bread would work. As it has been a while since I did this, I thought a little research would be in order. I remembered it as having bread chunks, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, some good vinegar, like a red wine, or my favourite, balsamic.
My research came down to one recipe, but as the author, Carol Field, of this particular book, The Italian Baker says, it’s not so much of a recipe, as, you just sort of throw it together with what’s on hand. Incidentally, I have the old version of her book from 1985; she now has a new, updated version out. I have it, but haven’t chewed through my book pile to it yet. It will be a delight, I’m sure.
Panzanella is nothing more that chunked bread, sliced or chunked tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, some onions, preferably the red ones, all mixed in a large bowl. You can use any proportion of veggie to bread ratio you like, this will be your salad, your way. Frank would be proud. A handful of basil leaves to me would be a must, as well as garlic. Most people don’t care for raw garlic very much, but if I were using garlic, I would rub the bowl with a cut clove first. On the other hand, if raw garlic is your thing, by all means, go for it. Some other veggie options might celery and carrots, chopped. Ms. Field mentions further down in her recipe that the Romans like it spicy, with capers and anchovies (gasp), the aforementioned garlic, and hard-boiled eggs. This would be the way I would make this salad, as it really turns it into a meal. Maybe a little tuna too. Don’t forget salt and fresh pepper to taste. In a way, this salad is like pasta salad: Anything goes, and you can’t go wrong.
As for the dressing, again, the best oil you can afford is a good choice. If it’s a spicy one, so much the better. Also important is a good vinegar. You can mix the two together to your taste and then pour over the salad. If you’re the more free wheeling type, just sprinkle it on until you have the proportions and moistness you like. Toss well. You can always add more if it’s drier than you like.
I will be attending the grand opening of the King Arthur Flour’s new Baking Education Centre this week, and will surely be in baking heaven for four days. Hopefully I get to meet up with Allison there, we’ve been busily corresponding by email for some time now. Besides bread talk, a constant stream of emails, at least from my end, has been I’ve got to get down to KAF again. I was last at KAF four years ago, and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Finally, a place that understands me! The guys went and sat in the car. But not before they ate some KAF pizza. I will report back on the results of my visit in my next blog, so stay tuned.
You can read more of Sue Van Slooten's food adventures at www.suevanslooten.com.