|Panzanella served with grilled chicken and grapes. Yum!|
But Mama Mia! Panzanella is a yummy addition to a summer menu, especially for someone who loves tomatoes as much as I do.
Panzanella is a classic Italian salad made with stale bread and tomatoes. The purists don't want to add a bunch of extraneous ingredients. But what do they know? I looked at several different recipes and ended up adding some other vegetables for texture and color.
Unfortunately, my tomato crop has succumbed to drought and spider mites. But I take advantage of growers who still have homegrown tomatoes to sell. I hope you can find some, too, because this salad is too good to miss this summer. Weekends seem to be the time for farmers' markets - even in small Kansas towns. So find some tomatoes and enjoy!
(Tomato and Bread Salad)1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/2 of a yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 of a red pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped zucchini (optional)
2 tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. day-old Italian bread, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
4 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 tsp. salt
7 to 8 grindings of black pepper
Cut bread into cubes. You can use Italian bread, multi-grain artisan bread, French bread or another favorite. Denser artisan breads work best with this recipe. Set aside.
Combine olive oil, vinegar, basil, tarragon, salt and pepper. Mix and set aside. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and set aside.
Spray a nonstick saucepan with a cooking spray. Combine chopped onion, peppers and zucchini and put in skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are crisp-tender. If they start to burn before they have reached that stage, add just a little water, then let it cook off. (You can add olive oil, but I prefer not to add more calories.) Take veggies out of the skillet and set aside.
In the same skillet used for your veggies, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add garlic and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the garlic takes on a bit of color. Add cubed bread. Toss in the butter-garlic mixture until the bread starts to toast. Keep tossing until the bread has developed good crispness, taking care not to burn it.
Put the toasted bread into a large mixing bowl. Add reserved vegetables and tomatoes. Toss with the olive oil mixture. Adjust seasoning as desired and serve immediately.
I don't have fresh herbs in my garden (or anything else that has survived to this point of the summer). I found basil in a tube, Garden Gourmet, in the refrigerated case of the grocery store. I liked using it because it keeps for awhile in the fridge. You could also use a bit of pesto instead of the fresh basil if you don't have it available. Or you can look for fresh herbs and tomatoes at your local farmers' market.