I remember specifically the first time I ever saw a recipe for panzanella, I said to myself, “Gross! bread in salad? ugh! croutons! UGH!!!!” It is true that I am not a crouton fan. When I’m eating this nice crunchy leafy watery substance, I don’t want to come upon the hardest, driest, most herbed cube that has ever existed. It’s like you’re floating along on your back in a beautiful cool lagoon and then you hit a dry sandbar, but your momentum doesn’t stop, so you get dragged across the sandbar. Except worse. Croutons! Who came up with them! God I hate them so much!!!!!!
Anyway. Panzanella is a bread salad. It is not a regular salad with croutons. The difference between panzanella and regular salad with croutons is that panzanella is one of the most delightful things that has ever been thought up and salad with croutons is a terrible scourge on the earth.
Also you know what class I failed? Not Exaggerating The Shit Out of Everything 101. Just sayin.
Because bread lightly coated in olive oil and salt and then LIGHTLY toasted and incorporated into a crunchy bounty of vegetables is wonderful. The bread still has enough fluffiness to absorb a little bit of the moisture, but it retains a small amount of crunch. It’s like when you dip toast into egg yolk. It’s that sensation. It’s that glorious glorious perfection of texture sensation.
So don’t be fooled like I was. I was the foolingest fool on the fucking planet of fool, because I’ve lived approximately 27.5 years without making panzanella. PURPOSEFULLY. It’s baffling, really.
from SK who adapted it from Ina Garten
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
2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (I like to use a combination of purple or yellow or orange, to nicely colorize the dish)
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
For the vinaigrette
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a large saute 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.
2. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the ingredients.
3. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
4. Serve immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.