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"To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist-the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know exactly how much oil one must put with one's vinegar."
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author
Salads, Sauces and Marinades

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Panzanella is a classic Italian bread salad usually made with day-old or stale bread. My version mimics stale bread by slowly toasting fresh bread. Obviously if you have stale bread, skip that step. Add grilled or roasted chicken to make it a meal in one. You can also add any other vegetables you like. Like most Italian food, there are many, many ways to prepare panzanella.

Preparation Time: 1 hour (includes toasting and sitting time)    Serving Size: 4

  • Baguette, or any other rustic, country white bread
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
  •  1/4 cup capers
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 large roasted red pepper, cut into 1/4 inch by 3/4 inch slices
  • 15 calamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, sliced thin*
  • 2 anchovy filets
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • champagne vinaigrette (below)

For the Bread (if not already stale)

Cut bread into 1 inch square cubes. In a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the bread cubes in a single layer, spread 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Place bread cubes in pan and move around to allow them to start soaking up the oil from the bottom. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over top of bread cubes. Turn skillet to low-medium-low heat. Sprinkle cubes with salt and pepper to taste. Use tongs to gently toss the cubes to soak up all of the oil. Toast over low-medium-low heat, tossing often, until all cubes are crisp and just starting to turn golden. This can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Do not toast the cubes to quickly or else the outside will toast before the inside becomes crisp. Cool on a plate when toasted. While bread cube toasts, make the vinaigrette.

Champagne Vinaigrette

  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place minced garlic or press garlic in a bowl. Add mustard, champagne vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk together. While still whisking, slowly drizzle olive oil in to create an emulsion. Now prepare the tomatoes.

For the tomatoes and other ingredients

After making the vinaigrette, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Use a paring knife to score the bottoms of the tomatoes with an X and core the top stem side of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes into the water for 20 seconds, then immediately place into an large bowl of ice water. Let sit 2 minutes, then peel, seed and chop the tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Put capers in a small bowl and cover with the red wine vinegar. Set aside with red peppers, olives and basil.

For the Salad

When bread is toasted and cooled, smash the anchovies in a large bowl with a fork and a tiny pinch of salt. Place in cooled bread cubes and pour several tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the cubes to allow them to start absorbing it. Next add the tomatoes, red peppers, olives and drained capers. Add more vinaigrette to evenly coat all the ingredients. Now add the basil. Continue to add vinaigrette to taste. It is not expected to use all of the vinaigrette. Let the salad sit for at least 30 minutes for the bread to soak up the vinaigrette and juices, but still allow it to be slightly crisp.

*Chiffonade is the French term for thinly sliced items. The easiest way to chiffonade basil is to stack leaves on top of each other. Then roll long ways, like a cigar, and cut thin slices across the roll.

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