I’m sure many of you are faced with the same harrowing dilemma that plagues my family week after week. You go to the market and buy one of those four-foot long French baguettes for dinner, everybody has a piece, and now you’re left with three and a half feet of bread and no clue what to do with it.
My solution to this age-old problem is the Panzanella Salad. Traditionally a Panzanella Salad is a rustic Italian salad made from tomatoes, onion, and stale bread. I personally like to add crisp Romaine lettuce and cucumbers to mine. But the best part of the salad is the seasoned and toasted cubes of bread that soak of the dressing, and make this dish taste more like a fresh tomato sandwich, than a tomato salad.
Summer is really the time when tomatoes are at their peak, so I urge you to give this salad a try for your 4th of July barbecue, or for a quick summer’s night supper.
2 large heads of crisp Romaine hearts
1/2 pounds heirloom baby tomatoes (or the freshest tomatoes you can find)
1 hothouse cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
10 leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade
1 pound loaf of rustic French Bread, cut into 1″ thick slices
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Finely mince 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme. Slice the French bread loaf into 1 ” slices. Brush each slice with olive oil on both sides. Then slice the bread into 1″ cubes. Place cubes in a large bowl and sprinkle the fresh thyme over top. Sprinkle the oregano, sea salt and fresh ground pepper on top of the bread, and toss to coat all the cubes.
Lay bread in flat layer on baking sheets, and bake for 15-20 minutes until cubes are lightly golden brown. Take out of oven and toss the bread cubes every 5 minutes or so, so that they toast evenly. Set aside.
Roughly chop the romaine and place in large bowl. Rinse and pat dry baby tomatoes and slice in half. (Or, if using larger tomatoes, chop into quarters. Peel the cucumber (but leave some of the peel on if you like the look of it) and take the seeds out. Chop into large chunks and add them to the bowl. Slice the onion very thinly (I used a mandolin) and add to the bowl. Cut the basil leaves in a chiffonade cut (thin ribbon-like strips) and add to the bowl.
Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss together. Add the bread cubes on top and toss together.
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I use champagne vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Add the first 5 ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together. Add the olive oil in a slow stream whisking as you go until it emulsifies.
Brush bread with olive oil and toss with herbs
When toasting the bread cubes, don’t toast them too much so that they’re brown and more like croutons. You still want them to have a little bread-like softness to them.
To de-seed the cucumber: slice the cucumber in half length-wise and with the tip of a spoon run it down the length of the cucumber removing all the seeds.
Here’s a nice little tutorial for cutting a “chiffonade” of basil.