With the warmer weather coming I find myself craving salads. One of my favorite salads is one I had in Tuscany, Panzanella salad, which comes from two words “panne”(bread) and “zanella” (bread bowl). This classic Italian salad traditionally is made with dry or stale bread. Although there are many variations, the traditional recipe calls for cucumbers, tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, red onion, fresh basil and olive oil. I have had it a variety of ways with the additions of fresh mozzarella, anchovies, tuna and black olives. To me the history of Tuscan cuisine is made up of simple and elegant ingredients, so I like to stick to the traditional recipe.
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
For the vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons Bellisari’s Balsamic, Shallot & Black Garlic Spread
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion and basil. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.