Panzanella: Summer Tomato & Bread Salad

Panzanella: Summer Tomato & Bread Salad
Panzanella: Summer Tomato & Bread Salad

A few days ago in a post on my pasta e fagioli video episode, Markus asked that I make panzanella, a simple Tuscan peasant summer salad.

I said I would when the summer tomatoes hit the farmers market. The first crop of Early Girls won’t be in for a few more weeks and the big heirlooms won’t be ready until the end of the summer. I thought I wouldn’t be making panzanella for a while.

But I couldn’t get panzanella out of my mind since Markus’ post. So when I saw a huge selection of tomatoes at Bruins Farms booth at the Ferry Building Farmers Market yesterday I had to buy some and give panzanella a go.

If you’ve been to Tuscany in the summer you’ve enjoyed panzanella. It’s made with days-old dark salt-free Tuscan bread. Recipes for this peasant dish date back to the days of Michelangelo according to Tuscan food maestro Giulliano Bugialli.

This is my modern San Francisco version. While you’ll see recipes with peppers, cucumbers and all sorts of other ingredients in today’s panzanella recipes, I keep it simple.

Tomatoes and a good crusty rustic bread soaked in the olive oil and tomato juices are the stars. My mix today is Lemon Boy, Black Zebra and Beefsteak.

These tomatoes are grown about 70 miles inland from San Francisco, in greenhouses on the farm a bit west of Sacramento where it’s sunnier and warmer than it is here in the City.

Panzanella only has a few ingredients so you have to make sure you’re using the best. These Bruins Farms tomatoes fit the bill and that makes it easier to wait for the big field-grown heirloom tomatoes later this summer.

Make panzanella with day-old rustic bread or switch it up and make it with taralli, those small boiled then baked crunchy rings. You can buy taralli in North Beach at Molinari Deli on Columbus or at A.G. Ferrari’s stores around the Bay Area or online.

The onion and basil round out the flavor of the sweet tomatoes and the juicy, creamy bread cubes perk up each mouthful with a lingering acidic vinegar tingle.

Serve panzanella chilled or at room temperature as an antipasto or as a side for grilled meats or poultry.

Find out more about New York City’s Little Italy, Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. If you’ve been disappointed with what’s left of Little Italy in lower Manhattan visit Arthur Avenue. You’ll find everything you’re looking for.

Buon appetito!

Panzanella: Summer Tomato & Bread Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A peasant Tuscan ripe summer tomatoes, basil and day-old bread moistened by the best extra virgin olive oil and tomato juices.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • ½ red onion
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 3 thick slices of day-old rustic bread
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the tomatoes into 2-inch cubes and put them in a large bowl.
  2. Quarter the onion and slice each quarter very thin and put them in the bowl.
  3. Rip each basil leaf into large pieces and add them to the bowl.
  4. Add the olive oil, sea salt and black pepper and mix all the ingredients well. Set the bowl aside. (The salt will start to draw the juices out of the tomatoes.)
  5. Cut the bread into 2-inch cubes and put them into the bowl with the tomatoes. (Remove the crust if you want but I leave it on to add more texture to the salad.)
  6. Let the salad sit for an hour or so on the counter or in the refrigerator to develop the juices that will be absorbed by the bread.
  7. Mix the salad well before serving.
  8. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

Summer Heirloom Tomatoes Are In

Caprese Salad

I returned from NYC to find the first decent crop of local heirloom tomatoes. A big, fat golden and red orb in the farmer’s market had my name on it. The ripe tomato had a sweet aroma and was just firm to the touch. You don’t mess we these babies in their prime. Keep it real simple.

Tomato and mozzarella salad is a riff on the traditional Caprese, slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella separated by a basil leaf and drizzled with EVOO.

I like the chunky pieces of tomato and smaller bocconcini mozzarella balls cubed and sprinkled with torn basil leaves, EVOO and sea salt.

I let the salad marinate for a half hour before serving to bring out the sweetness of the tomato and infuse the olive oil with the basil. All of the juices create a marinade to coat everything with flavor.

Tomato salad is a refreshing start to any summer meal or as a side for grilled or roasted sausage or other meats. Just make sure you have a good hunk of bread to soak up all the juices.

Enjoy the summer bounty. Buon appetito!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:98]

Spaghetti Pie

Let over pasta with beaten egg mixed in makes a wonderful pie
Let over pasta with beaten egg mixed in makes a wonderful pie

So I had some spaghetti with basil pesto left over from last night’s dinner. This happens once in a while–they don’t eat all the pasta and some inevitably spends the night in the fridge. But boy-oh-boy the next day it’s breakfast–a spaghetti pie.

You can make this with just about any left over long pasta with just about any sauce (seafood not so good, however). Start the day by beating a few eggs in a big bowl, add the left over pasta and toss. Pour it into a baking dish. Throw it in the oven and take it out after your shower.

Spaghetti pie for breakfast–maybe with a fresh peach salad? Save it for later and enjoy it as a side dish or part of an antipasti course.

The pie is moist inside and those golden pasta strands on top have a crispy, nutty flavor.

This recipe is good for about a 1/4 pound of leftover pasta. If you have more leftovers, simply add another egg.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:41]

 

Basil Pesto–The Genoa Way?

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto

Don’t know why but I’ve been putting off making basil pesto–a simple salsa verdi (green sauce) from Genoa. I couldn’t wait any longer when I got a deal on a couple of bunches of small leaf organic basil this morning. By early afternoon, the kitchen was sweetly perfumed by the fresh basil marinating in the morning sun when I returned to make the pesto.

Yeah the Genoese insist you must use a mortar and pestle to make this pesto. I don’t have one so if you don’t either, use a food processor to mince the basil, garlic and pinoli and then mix in the grated cheeses and the butter to give the pesto more texture. Not the authentic Genoa way, but taste is never sacrificed.

Just a few ingredients and you’ve got this pesto in 10 minutes. Use it to dress fettuccine as they do in Genoa (they call the dish trenette) or with spaghetti as I did this time. This pesto is really versatile. Use it as a sauce with roasted meats, as a pizza topping with fresh mozzarella and grated pecorino romano, or add a dollop to a soup like minestrone.

Ah, summer!

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:39]