Panzanella

 Or, Tuscan Tomato Bread Salad

As far as I am concerned the ‘right’ ingredients to use are the ones that you have, or at least the ones that you like the best.  On this particular day, I used large and very fresh Marjoram, and a couple of tiny soft thyme leaves, as well as a few leaves of basil.  Undoubtedly not truly correct, but utterly delicious just the same.  As long as you stick roughly to the volumes of ingredients below there are no serious rules – other than make sure you use very good red wine vinegar and the best olive oil you can lay your hands on.  The picture above in fact looks as though there is as much (or more) bread than tomatoes, but actually it is about 2/3 tomatoes and 1/3 bread.  Again though; the preference is personal and the volumes are flexible.

Ingredients

5 fat slices of Ciabatta, about 200g, or other rustic style day old (or older) crusty bread.  You can put it in the oven for a few minutes once broken up for full effect!

500g peeled baby San Marzano tomatoes (for directions see Iced tomato Soup recipe) or simply the best tomatoes you can buy

1 TBSP red wine vinegar

3 TBSP best olive oil

½ tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves crushed garlic

A good handful of basil, torn.  Other herbs such as marjoram or oregano and thyme can be added too

Method

If you can’t get your hands on baby tomatoes don’t worry – just buy the best, reddest and juiciest you can find.  I always peel mine, but again this may not strictly be authentic.  Not peeling is lazy and will not give you the best end result, but there are those that argue with conviction that tradition should rule. Cut the tomatoes in half if small or into rustic chunks if large.

Make a dressing with the oil, vinegar, S&P and garlic and pour over the tomatoes in a bowl.  Give them a good stir and leave them at room temperature for about fifteen minutes.  All the juices will start to flow from the tomatoes and begin to make a wonderful soupy mess at the bottom of the bowl.  Give them another good stir and then slowly start to stir in the chunks of bread.  I like to do this when the chunks are a little warm from a slight toasting in the oven.  Make sure all the bread is well covered in the juices and don’t worry if it looks a little dry. Give it a stir every now and then and you will be surprised how much the bread starts to soften and become a wonderfully sodden mess of tomato and aromatics.  Throw on the herbs and serve.

By the way, if you have a truly beautiful bread and can’t bear to tear it up, you can always cut fat slices, rub garlic and olive oil over them, and toast in the oven (or better still on a griddle) until golden.  Then, spoon over a load of tomatoes and herbs for a really tasty bruschetta.  A lovely lunch if served with a few greens and a cold beer.

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