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.
Panzanella recipe: (Serves one as a light meal, two as a side dish)
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
- 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.