Leftover bread perfect for Panzanella

Bread salad from Tuscany. Mike Hensen/QMI AGENCY

Bread salad from Tuscany. Mike Hensen/QMI AGENCY

Jill Wilcox, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:42 PM ET

A recent trip to Tuscany re-enforced the importance of great bread. And in that part of Italy there are many terrific loaves to choose from, freshly baked every morning in the small town bakeries.

It was a “must have” item on my grocery list each day to be served with a light salad or soup. It was also the “base” for a number of toppings for simple appetizers for lunch and dinner.

But it was the uses for leftover bread that really shone.

One of my favourite recipes using stale bread is panzanella. It’s a bread “salad” that incorporates perfectly ripe fresh tomatoes, basil, red onion along with red wine vinegar and really good olive oil.

This combination is so simple, and sounds odd at first. But the end result is one of those deeply satisfying dishes that you will find yourself craving.

While we have access to fresh tomatoes year round, this recipe is even better when you have your own tomatoes and fresh basil out of the garden.

Panzanella

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick slices of rustic Italian country bread
  • 3 tbsp. (45 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c. (50 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium to large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes (or a combination of large tomatoes and halved grape tomatoes)
  • 1 baby cucumber, sliced
  • 1 stalk of celery diced (including leafy bits)
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. (125 ml) torn fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Remove the crusts from the bread and tear the bread into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks. (You should have about 5 cups (1.25 L) of bread). Place on a baking sheet. Place in a preheated 400 F (150C) oven for about 5 to 8 minutes or until starting to turn a light golden. Let completely cool and transfer to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the red wine vinegar with the salt. Stir until the salt is dissolved. Add the garlic. Whisk in the olive oil. Season with pepper and set aside.

Place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the cucumber, celery and onion. Add the oil and vinegar mixture. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Spoon the tomato mixture over the bread. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Add the torn basil. Using your hands, or a set of tongs, toss the salad until well combined. Let sit another 5 minutes.

Serve.

Serves 4-6


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