Authentic Tuscan Panzanella
Damn, but it’s hot out there. Can’t imagine heating up the kitchen on a day like this, and fortunately, I don’t have to. I’ve got some wonderful things going for me here in Jeff’s Kitchen, and I can–will, tonight, produce about the best cold salad in my repertoire, and one the family always looks forward to, because the ingredients are as good as it gets, fresh and tangy.
It’s also true that this is one I can make with virtually all home-grown and/or homemade ingredients. I won’t dwell on the gory details of the garden out back, but you can make inferences of your own.
It’s panzanella, an amazing Italian bread and cucumber salad, that I’ve adapted to fit the needs of our eating habits and likes. You can grow the produce, bake the bread, whip it up in a flash on a hot summer day, and enjoy the fruits of your own hands, with style and substance. This one is good enough to make for company. Which we’ve done, more than once. I call it “authentic,” but I’ve actually added one non-authentic ingredient, because the one thing the recipe lacks is protein. Ergo garbanzo beans.
Make it. You won’t be sorry.
- 2 1/2 pounds mixed tomatoes, cut into bite-sized piece
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 3/4 pound ciabatta or rustic sourdough bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups bread cubes
- 1 seedless English cucumber, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup dried and reconstituted or 1 can (drained) garbanzo beans
- 10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
1. Place tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature to drain, tossing occasionally, while you toast the bread. Drain for a minimum of 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to center position. In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and firm but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
3. Remove colander with tomatoes from bowl with tomato juice. Place colander with tomatoes in the sink. Add shallot, garlic, mustard, and vinegar to the bowl with tomato juice. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Combine toasted bread, cucumbers, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and dressing in a large bowl. Add basil leaves. Toss everything to coat and season with salt and pepper. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until dressing is completely absorbed by bread.