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 Light Meals, Sides & Soups / Dinner 
 Tuscun Bread & Tomato Salad
(Panzanella)

tuscan bread and tomato salad panzanella

 

Tuscan Bread & Tomato Salad

(Panzanella)

 

Panzanella, is a wonderful salad to make in the summer months when tomatoes and basil are in full swing and you feel like something cool and refreshing, yet satisfying for dinner. It is a beautiful dish full of flavoursome sun kissed produce that is also very simple to make, but you do need to do a few things to get it tasting just right.

The first thing you need to do is source ripe, juicy, fresh tomatoes, the tastier the better. If you are lucky enough to be growing lots of different tomato varieties, use them, as this salad will really hero their unique flavours and diversity. I have used Black Krim, Costoluto Fiorentino and Bloody Butcher here, but feel free to use whichever varieties you have, as long as they are sun ripened and tasty.

 

The other thing you will need to acquire is a robust and crusty loaf of bread. I like to use sourdough as I enjoy the depth of flavour it gives to the salad, but a crusty bruschetta, ciabatta or similar would also be lovely.  

You want the bread to be a few days old so it still has some chew to it after marinating in the salad and I find three-day old bread is the sweet spot that will give you the best combination of chew and moisture retention. 

The next thing to think about is the dressing. Salting the tomatoes draws the liquid out of them, and by adding that liquid to the dressing you are ensuring the tomato flavour is really amped up. It is important to whisk all the dressing ingredients together except for the extra virgin olive oil, and then add the oil very slowly by drizzling it in while whisking again. This will help the dressing to emulsify so it is silky and smooth when the rest of the salad ingredients are added to it. 

And lastly you want to mix the dressing and the salad together just 20 minutes or so before you intend to eat it. If you wait too long, the bread could become soggy, the flavour of the salad won’t be as vibrant, and the tomatoes and basil will lose their fresh brightness.  

 

Serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side  

Ingredients 

  • 300 grams / 3 slices (cut thick) few days old crusty robust bread 

  • 750 grams sweet, tasty tomatoes (4 cups once diced)

  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt 

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 

  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard 

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil 

  • 1 shallot or ¼ red onion, finely diced  

  • 10 - 12 large Kalamata olives or similar, stones removed and roughly chopped  

  • 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, torn  

 

Method 

  1. Preheat oven to 180.C  

  2. Cut the slices of bread into cubes roughly 2 ½ - 3 centimeters in size – make sure they are small enough to comfortably eat, but large enough so they don’t break up easily in the salad. Place onto an oven tray with a tablespoon or two of the olive oil and toss to coat. Bake for 15 minutes, until the bread is lightly toasted – you might need to stir it to evenly toast each side. 

  3. Meanwhile, dice the tomatoes into bitesize pieces and put them into a colander, then place the colander over a large bowl to catch the juices. Sprinkle the salt over the tomatoes and mix through. Set aside for 15 minutes. 

  4. Remove the bowl from under the colander where the tomatoes were sitting, and into the tomato juices add the red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard. I find even though the tomatoes are salted already, it is still necessary to add salt to the dressing, so also put in a good pinch of salt and some freshly cracked black pepper. Whisk to combine. Slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl in a thin stream while continuing to whisk until the dressing comes together. 

  5. Add the toasted bread to the bowl, then the tomatoes, shallot or red onion, olives and basil. Gently combine ensuring everything is coated with dressing and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving. Eat within the hour.

  6. Enjoy with a nice glass of wine and maybe some grilled halloumi cheese on the side. 

tuscan bread and tomato salad panzanella

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