I was sitting in an outdoor cafe in Florence the first time I had Panzanella. The main component of this frugal Tuscan dish is stale bread.
Teamed up with tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and basil, mixed together in a vinaigrette, the dish sings.
Now that things are getting hot and humid, this recipe makes for a terrific light lunch or dinner. Serve it up with a Pinot Grigio or some other light white, preferably from the same region of Italy where this bread salad is a lunch/dinner-time staple.
6 cups cubed stale country-style bread
6 medium ripe tomatoes, seeded and cubed
1 medium Vandalia onion, finely chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1/2 tb dried thyme
8 tb extra virgin olive oil
4 tb red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Place bread, tomatoes, onion and cucumber in a large salad bowl. Add basil and thyme and toss.
Prepare the vinaigrette: Mix all ingredients by whisking in a small bowl. Pour vinaigrette slowly over the salad and toss gently.
Cover and set aside for at least 30 minutes or until the bread softens. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary, just before serving.
This salad is always served at room temperature.