Panzanella is a Tuscan salad with a main ingredient of stale bread. Bread salad? Yes, but there are plenty of vegetables in the bowl, too. And the bread is soaked in water to soften it. (Modern recipes may use croutons, but this is the original recipe.) A stale loaf of sturdy artisan bread is a must for this salad to be successful . . . and maybe a sense of the famous Tuscan tendency not to let anything go to waste.
Portions: Makes 6 servings
- 1 loaf of crusty rustic bread, about 1 pound, anywhere from 1 to 3 days old
- 1 small red onion, cut into thin half-moons
- 2 ripe medium tomatoes, seeded and cut into ¹⁄2-inch dice
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into
- ¹⁄2-inch dice 3 cups baby arugula
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¹⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the bread in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover. Top with a plate to keep the bread submerged, and let stand until the bread softens, 20 to 30 minutes. Put the onion in a small bowl and add cold water to cover. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with paper towels. Drain the bread. Break up and squeeze the soaked bread to remove excess water, just like wringing a sponge. Shred the bread into bite sized pieces. Transfer to a bowl and add the tomato, cucumber, soaked red onion, and arugula. Mix well. Pour the vinegar into a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil. Pour over the bread mixture and toss. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Serve at once. Our wine vinegar, made by Emiliani, is imported from Italy, where it is produced from fine Barbera, Docetto, and Croatina grapes and slowly aged for great flavor. Use real, slowly aged wine vinegar, and you will taste the difference in your cooking.