Thursday, 7 May 2009

Panzanella - Italian bread salad

There has been a noticeable change in the vegetables I've been getting in my organic box recently. Now the weather is warmer and the days are longer it's goodbye to swedes, turnips, Brussels sprouts and winter cabbages, hello to tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and asparagus.

This week I got some fantastic sweet peppers and a bunch of beautiful tomatoes on the vine, the perfect ingredients for making Panzanella.Panzanella is an Italian summer salad which can contain all manner of ingredients but always contains tomatoes, basil, olive oil, vinegar and most importantly bread. Panzanella was originally a peasant dish designed to use up leftover bread, -isn't it funny how peasant dishes are almost always the most delicious?- to make this salad chunks of old bread are torn up and tossed with the other ingredients where it absorbs all the delicious juices and takes on a fantastic flavour.I don't think it's possible to find an 'authentic' recipe for this, by it's very nature it's made from whatever people had to hand at the time. My version uses tomatoes, peppers, olives, capers and mixed salad leaves. I also added some flaked trout fillets to make it more substantial, you could add salmon or chicken to equally good effect or just leave it out altogether.

the bread I used was an Italian ciabatta but any firm textured bread will do, just don't use anything too light and airy.
Roasting peppers gives them an amazing flavour
Panzanella recipe: (Serves one as a light meal, two as a side dish)

  • One large red or yellow sweet pepper roasted (see method)
  • Two large tomatoes chopped into eight moon shaped wedges.
  • A handful of olives, green or black.
  • A tablespoon of chopped capers.
  • Sea salt, extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar (or lemon juice).
  • Mixed baby salad leaves, I used spinach, rocket and watercress.
  • As much leftover bread as you want to eat torn into chunks.
  • Flaked trout or salmon - optional.
  • First up you need to roast you pepper, you can do this either in the oven, under the grill or if you have a gas hob like I do you can use that. Basically you need to char the skin, and I mean really char it, it should be black.
  • What I do is stab the pepper onto a fork and hold it above the flame on my gas hob so the skin crackles and blackens, do this all over. I f you using an oven or grill the same rule applies, it needs to be black.
  • Once your pepper is blackened all over place it inside a plastic bag and leave it while you prepare everything else, when you come back to it the skin will slip right off and the pepper will taste amazing.
  • Next put the tomatoes, olives, capers, into a large bowl. Add as much oil. vinegar and salt as you like, personally I like mine quite sharp but it's entirely down to personal taste. The salt is really important here as it's the salt that draws the juices out of the tomatoes and peppers, this is the juice that will soak into your bread.
  • Now to the peppers, remove them from the plastic bag and pull the skin away, it should be really easy. Slice the pepper open, tip any juice that has collected inside into the bowl with the tomatoes then chop the flesh and add that to the bowl too.
  • Leave the salad to stand for at least 15 minutes, preferably longer so that the juices can be drawn out and the flavours can meld together.
  • Just before you want to serve toss in the bread and salad leaves, mix everything well, check the seasoning and the oil/vinegar is perfectly balanced then serve. Top with flaked trout or salmon if you'd like.


Katie said...

That looks really fresh and summery! Lovely photos too.

Anonymous said...

I love bread salad! Trouble is, I rarely have any leftover bread! :)

Kadeeae said...

Looks very refreshing - can see myself out on the patio in the hot sunshine having this for lunch.

Well, when the hot sunshine comes back that is!

Thanks for another great recipe, Sam.

Hopie said...

I want to be an Italian peasant please! :-) This looks delicious. I'm definitely with you on roasted peppers!

Karen said...

This is always a great salad. The roasted red peppers just make it that much better!

pigpigscorner said...

Very summery indeed! yum yum!

Amanda @ Mrs.W's Kitchen said...

Gorgeous photos, Sam. I love that square plate! The salad looks fantastic.

Antonia said...

This is one of my favourite Italian salads - yours looks beautiful. And I like the idea of adding some smoked fish to make it into more of a main dish. Lovely.

The Caked Crusader said...

Totally agree with you about "peaseant food" - I love all the bean stews, vegetable stews etc and your salad looks lovely

Katie said...

I've never tired panzanella but it sounds wonderfully fresh and summery, especially with those lovely roasted peppers

Margaret said...

Looks and sounds delicious! I love all the summery colours.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

With really good tomatoes, this dish is always a winner!

gastroanthropologist said...

Isn't the changes in the veg boxes so welcome after a long winter of roots?!

Anonymous said...

wow- you can really cook! Inspiring site.

Cooking and the City said...

looks delicious Sam and your so right about roasted peppers having an amazing flavour! :-)