Panzanella could be Italian for 'leftover' salad. It's probably not, but it is the perfect summer salad to make with any leftover, day or two old bread. At its heart is the genuine taste of summer-tomatoes and basil. A great time to harvest some of my own herbs-the giant container of basil plants are loving the early-summer rain and plethora of warm days in May. The mint is feeling a little crowded, I might have to make some pesto to even things out a little- one night of mojitos could take a fair amount of mint leaves, so they need some time in the sun too.
You could do the usual, pack the basil leaves on top of each other, roll up and slice thinly into a chiffonade, but I like to tear them up by hand-the small ones in half and the large ones a couple times. Since this recipe is created in the 'leftover' style, I think things should be as rustic as possible. Odd, rough cuts are welcome here, no Michelin people at the table tonight. Probably not tomorrow, or next week either, but I'm sure I could coax 1 star out of em.
This recipe has infinite wiggle room- you could add any veggie in here, some bacon or ham or turkey, even lettuce if you want to really call it a salad. If you don't like capers, don't use them. I like the briny saltiness it brings. Below recipe is modified slightly from Ina Garten's recipe, definitely one of my favorites from the Barefoot Contessa, who offers many easy, quick recipes. I just don't like too much talk about Jeffrey, it's sort of creepy. Not as creepy as the Neely's, though. Talk about food porn.
serves about 8 as a side
3 TB good EVOO
6 C french bread, crusts included, 1" cubes (medium baguette)
1 ts kosher
1 seedless cucumber, halved and 1/2" slices (English, hothouse, or deseed a large one)
1 C grape tomatoes, halved (or any other tomatoes if you have em)
1 red bell pepper, large dice
1 yellow bell pepper, large dice
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
handful of basil leaves, about 25, torn into pieces
3 TB capers, drained, if desired
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 ts good Dijon mustard
3 TB white wine vinegar
1/2 C good EVOO
1/2 ts kosher
1/3 ts freshly cracked black pepper
In a large skillet over medium heat, coat with EVOO and then toss in the bread cubes. Sprinkle with salt and toast until nicely browned, stirring often, for about 8-10 minutes. Add the chopped veggies and basil in a large bowl. To make the vinaigrette, combine the garlic, mustard, vinegar, EVOO, and S&P in a small jar or cup. Shake, whisk, or zap with a stick blender to emulsify. About 10 minutes before serving, add the bread cubes to the bowl and pour in the dressing, then gently combine everything together. Adjust if necessary with S&P. The flavors will combine during the short rest and the bread will soak up some tasty sauce without getting too mushy. Enjoy- this stuff tastes good bout this time of year.