About a month ago, two of my friends and I posted out at my favorite little French coffee shop and café downtown, people watching, answering emails, and turning our laptops to allow for optimum viewing for the entire table whenever we Stumbled upon a fantastically bad tattoo. I was munching on Nutella toast and drinking a chai latte from a bowl (its how they do it, and it rocks) when one of my company announced that she was going to order the special that day, a summer panzanella. The other friend looked quizzically up from her iced coffee and asked what that was. “Bread salad,” answered the first, and the second dropped her spoon/jaw and yelled, “BRILLIANT!”
Panzanella IS brilliant. It also defeats the entire purpose of ordering a salad, but so does two large helpings of butter pecan ice cream and I have never had a problem with THAT.
This is the easiest meal you’ll ever make in your life, and it is so fresh. It feels good to eat it. It tastes like summer. You will chew and smile at the same time.
PS: This recipe makes enough bread salad for everyone you know and 7 people you don’t. It’s a LOT. Make it for a potluck block party barbeque fiesta and wow friends and strangers alike.
Recipe from Ina Garten (perhaps not a stellar actor – “I wonder what Robert is picking up from the store? OH LOOK he has text messaged me!” – but the resident queen of all things culinary)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small loaf of French bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into cubes a little smaller than 1 inch (Ina says 1 inch cubes for everything, but then you can’t eat multiple things at once because everything is so huge. I say run the risk of bordering on a dice and cut a leeeetle smaller pieces)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded (cut in half length-wise, run a spoon down the middle to remove gunk) and cut into cubes
2 different color bell peppers, seeded and cut into cubes
½ red onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
20 large basil leaves, chopped (Chiffonade your basil. My mom taught me how. Its pretty. See below.)
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
Heat the oil in large pan. Add the bread and salt and cook at medium heat, tossing frequently, until the cubes are evenly browned.
Whisk all of the vinaigrette ingredients together. Cake.
To chiffonade basil: lay a few large leaves on top of each other. Roll the leaves up as one, longways, until you have a basil, um, cigarette. Slice across the cigarette; the basil will end up in small, curly strips.
In a large bowl, mix all of the vegetables, the capers, and the basil. Add the bread and the vinaigrette, toss, and season with salt and pepper. You won’t need much salt, because the bread and capers do a number on their own.
This stuff does not keep well when fully assembled because the bread gets soggy. HOWEVER, letting the ingredients meld in their juices and the vinaigrette overnight does really great things. So. If you want to keep this for longer than one meal, keep the bread separate and add a handful of cubes to each serving individually right before consumption.