August 23, 2010

Bread Salad aka Panzanella

My favorite meal in the whole world is bread, cheese, fruit, raw veggies and chocolate. Really, I could eat a variation of this meal for lunch and dinner for weeks straight. That's saying something from the girl who doesn't cook the same thing twice in one month. This wonderful dish satisfies part of that favorite meal with the fresh tomatoes and chewy bread. Bread salad, it sounds strange, but Italians know it's the smart way to use day old bread. (And much better for you than bread pudding.) And you know I'm in love with all things Italian.

Bread Salad aka Panzanella
loaf of old crusty, chewy bread with lots of holes in it (the Italian version uses an unsalted bread)
tomatoes, the ripe fresh kind you can only get in summer
onions, use red for color or sweet vidalia
fresh basil
good quality extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar

course salt and pepper to taste

Tear the bread into chunks and put in a big bowl. Cut the tomatoes up into chunks (we had a bunch of cherry tomatoes, so I halved those and used them - why did I plant cherry tomatoes??) and add to the bread. Slice the onions and add to the bowl. Tear or chop the basil into small bits and throw it in the bowl. Then you can whisk the olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl. I usually use a 1:1 part ratio for the both. That means if you use 1/2 c oil you use a 1/2 c vinegar, but that might be too strong for your tastes.  In which case, just add as much vinegar as you like. Then pour the dressing over the salad. Let sit for at least 15 minutes so the bread soaks up the dressing. Give it an occasional stir.
Some folks add cucumbers or tuna chunks, cheese, olives, etc. Just like any salad, you can make it your own, but it is wonderfully simple and delicious in its original form.

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