Panzanella means "bread in a swamp" and is a summer salad that is popular all over Italy. In Tuscany this was originally a country dish eaten for breakfast or for a snack. Usually tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers make up the dish as well as stale bread which is moistened in water or vinegar and combined with the vegetables and extra virgin olive oil.
I cannot stress enough that the quality of the bread is critical to the salad. Make this early in the day and hold it at room temperature so all the flavors can mingle and the bread becomes permeated with the juices of the tomatoes.
1 cup coarsely chopped plum or cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
6 slices stale bread, crust removed
1/2 cup thinly sliced Spanish onion
1 cup seeded and diced cucumber
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 large basil leaves torn into pieces
6 tablespoons Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Place the tomatoes in a small bowl, stir in the sugar, and set aside.
Tear the bread into chunks and dip them quickly into a bowl of room temperature water. Squeeze the water out and crumble the bread into a salad bowl. Add the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, parsley and basil, and toss gently.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again. Cover the salad and allow it to sit at room temperature for several hours.
Just before serving, toss the salad gently.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN TUSCANY by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2003.
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