Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Refreshing and Rustic: Tuscan Bread Salad

Printable Recipe
Gorgeous and juicy, these heirloom tomatoes make the perfect mix with cool cucumbers and fiesty red onion for traditional bread salad. Panzanella. Yes, let's call it what it is: Panzanella, Panzanella. Doesn't that just roll off your tongue? Have some of this fresh Panzanella I've made especially for you, darling, hmmm? Years ago, when I first tried this dish at the now extinct Allo Spiedo, favorite Italian spot of mine where lots of things were cooked on a stick, I looked at this salad and thought why? Why put bread in there with those lovely vegetables, all fresh and summery? Why do it? And then I tasted it. Oh, sweet mother of pearl, that bread was saturated with the juice of cucumbers and tomatoes and oil and vinegar and fragrant herbs and garlic and it absolutely melted in my mouth. 

You certainly don't have to wait for peak tomato season to make panzanella, but you have no excuse when that time of year rolls around. So today, we're using 4-5 med size tomatoes of your choice, seeded and peeled too, if you think they need it. A few of these had very thin skin and I didn't bother peeling, the others needed it so I did it. I also seeded the cucumber before slicing(click here for a quick method) and would recommend you do the same. As for the red onion, halve it, and slice thinly and if it's as large as this one you'll probably only need 1/2 but let your personal taste be your guide.
I chopped this garlic very fine rather than crushing it in a press, which really releases the garlic oil, and since this one smelled a little strong  I wanted to keep it on the milder side by not pressing. Also, hold the garlic back to mix with the oil and vinegar rather than adding it to the rest of the vegetables now. 
All vegetables ready, now let's move on to that good crusty bread. This is the ideal use for bread that has gotten just a bit too hard to chew into for a sandwich, but I have also used a just purchased crusty loaf  and it works fine.
Just tear into uneven pieces, no need to cut neatly into cubes.

I used a little more than half this loaf which was nearly twice the bulk of the vegetables. Once it is all mixed together the bread will absorb juices from everything else and reduce considerably in bulk, though. Toss everything together now and anoint with the following dressing:

1/2 cup Olive Oil, 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, pinch of sugar, 1 tbs or so lemon juice. Whisk all together and taste for seasonings. If it seems bland, salt and pepper it more, too tangy add another pinch of sugar, and don't skip the lemon juice because it really brightens the flavor. Don't forget to add the chopped garlic before pouring over your salad.

Really toss well, scooping all the way to the bottom and turning everything over until the dressing is thoroughly dispersed. It's easier to just use clean hands to mix it all together. Last of all add the whole 8 oz carton of fresh mozarella which is soft enough to pinch or tear into pieces easily. Snip in the herbs with scissors last: basil, oregano, chives or crumble in dried, about 1 Tbs.      Now do your friends a favor and invite them over to share. 

1 Loaf Crusty Bread
8 oz Fresh Soft Mozarella
4-5 med Tomatoes
1 Cucumber
1 Red Onion
1 Clove Garlic
Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar
Fresh Herbs: Basil, Oregano, Chives

Summerfest is still on at the Food Network website and you'll find me there too! We're all blogging about Tomatoes this week. Stay tuned for one more post in two weeks, about broccoli, and in the mean time check out these other great blogs about how to use those beautiful garden tomatoes:

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Seared Chicken with Cherry Tomato Pan Sauce
Haute Apple Pie: Heirloom Tomato & Three Cheese Tart
What's Gaby Cooking: Zebra Tomato and Burrata Crostini
Zaika Zabardast: Balsamic Roasted Tomato-Basil Ice
And Love It Too: Healthy Lunchbox - Garlic Tomato Basil Pesto Bruchetta
Chez Us: Roasted Tomato Sauce
Glory Foods: Fresh Tomato Salsa
Dishin and Dishes: Tomato Tart Tatin
The Purple Cook: Eggplant Parmesan Caprese Salad
I Am Mommy: Tomato Crudite
Cooking With My Kid: Gluten-Free White Bean Chive Cakes with Heirloom Tomatoes
FN Dish: Easy Tomato Appetizers
Add a Pinch: Simple Caprese Salad Skewers
Sweet Life Bake: Salsa Cruda
Virtually Homemade: Farfalle with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Bacon and Shaved Romano 
Dixie Chik Cooks: Tomato, Basil and Olive Bruschetta
The Sensitive Epicure: Yemista - Greek Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers with Potatoes 
Mooshu Jenne: Sun Burst Tomato Pasta
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Book Club, Tomatoes and a Recipe for Chicken Proven├žal
Cooking With Elise: Tomato Parmesan Biscuits 
From My Corner of Saratoga: Cooking from the Garden - Bruschetta Pizza 
Fritos and Foie Gras: Tomato Terrine 
Creative Culinary: Fresh and Savory Tomato Pie 
Big Apple Nosh: Caprese Salad/Tomato Carnage 
Spices and Aroma: Quick and Easy Paneer Curry 
Zaika Zabardast: Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Breakfast Rolls


  1. I remember the first time I made a tomato and bread salad, fully expecting the bread to be mushy and not really liking it much. I was so wrong and they are so good...yours is just beautiful!

  2. I, like Barbara, remember that first bread salad as well. Was I ever surprised that the bread was not mush but instead it was a party in my mouth. Love the flavor combinations - definitely summer in a bowl.


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