PANZANELLA

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ahhhhh – I’ve arrived at my parent’s home in the UK (a little cottage in a tiny village in Surrey,) and am just getting over jet lag. Despite the fact that when it’s lunchtime here, it’s four in the morning back home, I’ve managed to get my taste buds onto British time and mom and I are already rummaging around in her kitchen, dreaming up the week’s menu.

Since she has an abundance of tomatoes and basil in her little garden and a large stale piece of ciabatta in her bread bin, I suggested a simple Panzanella for lunch today. I love Panzanella, which basically means “bread salad,” because it’s made from simple rustic ingredients that anyone can find. It goes without saying that the quality of the tomatoes make or break this dish, so go out of your way to get some good ones from the farmer’s market. I wouldn’t use heirloom tomatoes because they’re wasted in this salad. Whenever I find a perfect stripey heirloom, I just like to eat it naked with good olive oil and sea salt.

This salad calls for salty tastes to counter the sweet of the tomatoes and fresh basil, so I use anchovies, which you either love or hate – if you fall into the latter camp, use capers instead. Stale bread works best, so if you are eating ciabatta, forcaccia or olive bread this week, save a chunk and leave it out to get crusty.

The only fiddly part of this recipe is peeling the tomatoes, which you really have to do. That said, I’ve now got it down to a fine art, which I’ll share in a second.

Panzanella

4 or 5 medium tomatoes (preferably organic.)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2tbsp red wine vinegar
Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper
3 slices or a large end of stale ciabatta bread
1 tin of anchovies (drained and chopped)
12 black Kalamata olives
1 large bunch of basil, leaves torn off stems
1 bunch a flat leafed parsley ( we only had curly parsley, which isn’t as nice.)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 1 full minute and then drain under cold water. Slip off their skins. Chop the tomatoes into quarters and remove the cores. Some recipes call for the tomatoes to be de-seeded, but I think this takes away all the juicy-ness, so I vote to just cut out the cores with a sharp little knife.

Roughly chop the tomatoes.

Add the oil, garlic, vinegar and salt & pepper to taste.

If the bread is soft enough, rip it into bite sized pieces – if it’s rock solid, use a sharp serrated knife to chop it up.

Place it in a pretty bowl. Add the tomato mixture to the bread and toss the salad around, making sure the bread is well coated. Add the parsley, basil, anchovies and olives – combine well. Finally add the red onion.

The salad is best left for a good hour before eating to allow the juices to soak into the bread. Eat the salad at room temperature. It’s even better the next day, however, if you chill it in the fridge overnight, be sure to take it out an hour prior to eating because the flavors only really come out if it’s room temperature.

I recommend eating this salad for a delicious lunch – it also travels well, so you could pop it in a reusable container to take to lunch at work. It also works well as an appetizer or a side to meat or fish.

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