Panzanella (Tuscan Summer Bread and Vegetable Salad)

Preparation info

  • Makes

    2

    Servings or More
    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Get in There and Cook: A Master Class for the Starter Chef

Get in There and Cook

By Richard Sax

Published 1997

  • About

This is an ingenious and delicious way to use up yesterday’s bread. Many cuisines transform day-old bread into similar salads, as well as bread soups and more.

With real Tuscan bread, which is firm and dense, the day-old bread is soaked in cold water, then squeezed dry. Because most bread we get here is less dense, I’ve soaked the bread more quickly and then marinated it in a vinegar and olive oil dressing, which soaks in nicely.

Ingredients

  • 1 long loaf (12 inches) good Italian bread, day-old
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced
  • 1 small red (bell) pepper, cored, seeded (Bell Pepper Basics), and cut into thin slivers
  • ½ red onion, halved and cut into thin slivers
  • 8 to 12 kalamata or oil-cured black olives
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar, or 2 tablespoons each red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar, plus more for serving
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons torn fresh basil leaves (do not use dried)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (do not use dried)
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives or chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced (Tomato Basics)

    Method

    1. With a long serrated bread knife, cut the loaf of bread into cubes. Place the bread in a large bowl and drizzle with very cold water, tossing gently and using just enough to lightly coat all the cubes, without drowning the bread. Let the bread stand until it is moistened but not mushy. This can take as little as 3 minutes or as long as 10 for denser bread. Working with a handful at a time, gently squeeze out all possible excess water from the bread; place it in a bowl or on a large plate. The bread should still remain in pieces, not be mashed to a mush. Set the bread aside while you prepare the vegetables.
    2. Place the cucumber, bell pepper, onion, olives, and capers in a large bowl and toss with a wooden spoon to mix. In a 2-cup glass measure, measure out the oil and vinegar and add the garlic, herbs, and salt and pepper. Whisk or stir vigorously with a fork to blend. Stir in the diced tomatoes.
    3. Place about half of the bread in a glass serving bowl or salad bowl. Top with half of the vegetables. Give the tomato dressing another stir and pour half of it over everything. Repeat, layering the remaining bread, vegetables, and dressing. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
    4. Remove the salad from the refrigerator a few minutes before serving. Toss the ingredients gently with a large rubber spatula. Taste and correct all seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, basil, thyme, and chives, if needed. Serve, passing cruets of olive oil and vinegar plus a pepper mill at the table.