Monday, 1 August 2011

Recipe/Ricetta - Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad)

This is one of my favourite salads - it's almost the epitome of summer for me. And not only is it super-easy to make (no cooking!), it's a great way to use up stale bread. It's said that Italians never throw anything away - certainly this tends to be true where food is concerned, especially bread. Bread is a spiritual food amongst some Italians (as in the body of Christ), so to throw it away, even when stale, is considered sacrilege. Italians are also frugal people, so really, it's just common sense to use up as much as you can. More food - less waste!

Which type of bread to use? Pane Toscano is the most authentic (of course!) but it defeats the purpose of this dish to buy bread especially to make it with! This is cucina povera - we use what we have! My panzanella more often than not, is made with granary bread because this is the type of bread we use the most here. In fact, if I'm honest, the only time I make and use Pane Toscano is when I want to make bruschetta (because you need a robust bread which isn't going to go soggy under all the veggies)!

Some people advocate toasting the bread first, or baking it in the oven, and sprayed with oil - I don't know any Italians who do this! Why make life complicated?! I'm with Carluccio - great food should be MOFMOF; Minimum Of Effort - Maximum Of Flavour. Keep this in mind, and you won't go wrong!

Approximate nutritional values per person:
Calories 153
Carbs 13g
Fat 9g
Sodium 133mg
Sugar 3g
Protein 6g
(Please note that these are based on the ingredients I use - your own may be slightly different)

For four people: 
115g stale bread 
155g cucumber
2 large plum tomatoes
½ red onion
5-10 basil leaves
2 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
½ tbsp lemon juice
20g Parmigiano, grated
A dash of freshly cracked black pepper

1. Lightly moisten the bread under running water - it should be moist but not soggy. Give it a gentle squeeze to ensure it's wet all the way through, and to remove any excess water. Set aside for a few minutes while you prepare the salad veg/fruit.
2. Roughly chop the tomatoes and cucumber, and then finely slice the onion. Add to a large bowl.
3. Break the bread into bite-sized lumps and add to the salad bowl. Some people like to crumble the bread so it resembles cous-cous but I'll be honest and say that I prefer my panzanella to be more chunky. I find it more satisfying like that. 
4. Tear the basil leaves and mix into the salad.
5. Whisk together the oil and lemon juice until it has emulsified (you may need to adjust the amounts for your own taste), then add to the salad. Add the cheese.
6. Mix everything together with your hands (this is where your minions children can earn their keep - and they'll have fun helping you!).
7. Either serve immediately, or chill in the 'fridge for half an hour.

The image above shows panzanella served with with green salad from my garden (complete with rocket flowers!), potato salad, and halloumi-wrapped asparagus. Please click on the links for the recipes. 

Buon appetito!

No comments: