perfectly pleasing panzanella

Panzanella is a simple bread and tomato salad using stale bread. It’s a great addition to a summer menu, as it can sit at room temperature, at a barbecue or backyard party. The idea is to use tomatoes, onions, and really, any other ingredients you like, to make a salad where the stale bread soaks up the juices of the ingredients.

Where there are ingredients in a recipe, we always like to elevate the flavors and grill them. This salad in particular benefits from the toasted flavors of the tomatoes and the bread. We use red onions in our panzanella.

As we mentioned in a previous post, we like to marinate the thin slivers of red onion, in red wine or balsamic vinegar, for a bit of time, to take the edge off the sharpness of the onion taste. By soaking the onions, it softens them, and mellows the flavor of a raw, red onion.

The panzanella is based on the idea of using up stale bread. We like to use fresh, or slightly stale loaves of bread, and toast them like we did in a past post about bruschetta. Bruschetta is basically toasted bread.

Drizzle a baguette with olive oil and place on the grill. When the bread is toasted, remove from the grill and rub with some cloves of garlic to infuse the bread with a garlic flavor. Grill the tomatoes, as we have done in previous posts, and allow to cool. Coat with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of Kosher salt.

Allow the tomatoes to cool for about 20 minutes. The salt will draw out the natural juices of the tomatoes. You’ll probably be surprised at how much of the liquid, from the tomatoes, will be in the bottom of the bowl. Those juices are what the bread will soak up when you toss all the ingredients together.

Place all the ingredients in a bowl. Add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. This is when you use the good stuff. Toss everything together. Take some basil leaves and stack them on your cutting board.

Roll the leaves up in a cigar shape and slice into ribbons. Scatter over the bread salad and mix together. We like to add some garlic chives and lemon thyme to liven up the flavors. Grate some lemon zest for a citrus taste in the background.

Play with the ingredients. Add sliced, seedless cucumbers, briny capers, or grilled zucchini. Some sprigs of minced rosemary leaves. Whatever tastes like summer in a bowl to you.

The last weekend of Blogathon 2013 starts tomorrow!

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