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When asked to name their favorite foods, many people include at least one combination of bread and tomatoes on their list: pizza, BLT’s, or bruschetta, for example. But there’s another, less familiar bread-and-tomato dish that deserves inclusion as well: Panzanella, so very popular in the summer when we have an abundance of beautiful tomatoes. This salad originated in Tuscany as a tasty way to use the last scraps of stale bread.
At the height of tomato season, for every perfectly ripe, taut and juicy specimen, there’s an overripe, oozing counterpart not far away. The Tuscan bread salad called panzanella is the perfect place to use those sad, soft tomatoes that are still rich in flavor. Traditional panzanella is made with stale, dried bread that’s rehydrated from a dressing of sweet tomato juices, vinegar and plenty of olive oil. This version calls for the bread cubes being sauteed for 10 minutes to guarantee no soggy bread cubes. It’s an ideal make-ahead dish; the longer the mixture sits (up to 6 or so hours), the better it tastes.
While the garden is still yielding an abundance of produce – plump tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, pungent red onions, and aromatic fresh basil – it’s hard not to create this fabulous and economical salad. A perfect supper for a hot August evening.
“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in fruit salad.”
~ Brian O’Driscoll