Panzanella (bread and tomato salad) is a great way to use up stale bread and tomatoes that are just this side of overripe. Who knew two things that were otherwise destined to feed the compost pile could make such a delicious meal?
I used half a large loaf of rustic Italian bread, a couple of beautiful red heirloom tomatoes that had gone a little too soft, and a large handful of bright red cherry tomatoes that my neighbor kindly sent over. Add a handful of capers, some peppers and basil from our garden, and some olive oil and red wine vinegar, let it marinate, and the flavor was just amazing.
I really wanted to add some extra protein to this meal, since I went without a real lunch yesterday, so I fried up some halloumi to go with it.
That, plus a nice glass of wine, and I was a happy camper. We enjoyed the meal out on the back porch in the unseasonably cool evening air. It was 74 degrees, people. 74 degrees! Fall is coming. I’m sure Indian summer is going to smack me back to reality soon, but I’m enjoying it while I can.
Adapted from a recipe published in Bon Appétit, August 2012
2 lbs tomatoes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf stale bread (such as country, Pullman, or ciabatta), cut into 1″-thick slices
3-4 mixed sweet peppers
1/4 cup capers
1 bunch basil, leaves trimmed and roughly torn
Using a vegetable peeler, peel and core the tomatoes.* Use your hands to crush them into a large bowl and break up any larger pieces. Whisk in the olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper, and adjust the seasoning to taste. Add the bread and toss. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the juices.
Meanwhile, roast the peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler until their skins blister. Seal them in a paper bag for 10-15 minutes and then remove the stems, seeds, and skins, and slice into thin strips.
Add the pepper strips, capers, and torn basil leaves to the bread and tomato mixture, massaging with your hands until the ingredients are well-combined and the bread is broken down. Set aside for an additional 30 minutes to an hour. Taste for seasoning and serve.
* You can also score the tomatoes, immerse them in boiling water, put them in an ice bath, and then peel them, but, frankly, that’s too much hassle and to many dishes for me these days.