Panzanella is a salad originating in the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, and Lazio. Basically, it’s a cuisine of homegrown ingredients and in Italy is traditionally prepared during the summer season.
Almost any type of vegetable can be added from the garden such as; radishes, peppers, carrots, corn and green onions. Hard boiled eggs, olives, grilled chicken & shrimp can also be added to round out the dish.
In the Lazio Region of Italy, tomatoes and onions are omitted. Instead, capers, garlic, anchovies, hot red pepper flakes and parsley are pulverized together with a mortar and pestle.
The original intention behind this dish is the use of day-old or sometimes, few-day old bread. Traditionally, the bread is cubed then soaked in water until soft; then all the moisture is squeezed out until dry. The bread is then chopped or crumbled into small pieces.
I personally prefer to use the day old bread cubes and either sauté slowly in olive oil with a little garlic for 5-10 minutes, or toast in 350 degree oven until light brown. Either way you choose start with really good bread and you can’t go wrong.
recipe by Chef George Hirsch | Makes 4 servings
2 cups day old very good Italian or French bread, cubed
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, split; or 4 vine-ripen tomatoes quartered
4 leaves of basil
1 fresh thyme leaf, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large red onion, chopped 1/4 inch pieces
1 stalk celery, chopped 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium-sized cucumber, peeled & split seeded and chopped
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups hearts of romaine, torn into small pieces
Soak bread in water until it softens, then squeeze all water out.
Or, heat a large sauté pan to medium temperature add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to pan. Add bread and slowly cook until bread is light brown tossing occasionally.
Make a dressing in the bottom of a large salad bowl with vinegar, Dijon, salt and pepper, garlic, and onion. Allow to marinate two minutes and then add olive oil and mix well. Add tomatoes, celery, and cucumber, Tear basil leaves and add to salad with romaine. Toss and serve immediately.
Additional Greens: radicchio, heart of escarole, Arugula, chicory