Summer being officially here (and then some--hello 105 heat index!) means that we are busting out some of our favorite summer recipes. Last night, we had panzanella, Italian bread and tomato (and a lot of other things) salad, made with our own basil, some heirloom tomatoes (not ours, yet, but soon), and many other good vegetables. Wanna try it yourself? Here's the recipe, which I can claim is original, seeing as how I cobbled together what I liked from a gazillion recipes (though Ina Garten's salad was a big inspiration):
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 loaf sour dough or italian bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 large tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
half of 1 red onion, roughly chopped
fresh basil if available, chiffonade
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a very large and deep skillet (a wok works nicely). Add bread and salt and stir over low heat until lightly toasted.
Combine bread with vegetables and fresh basil in a large bowl.
Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Pour over the bread and vegetable mixture until you reached desired saturation. Serve immediately.
Notes: This recipe is forgiving. Last night I used assorted small sweet peppers in place of the red and yellow pepper and a pint of heirloom and yellow pear tomatoes in place of the large chopped tomatoes. I also zapped my chopped onion in the microwave for 30 seconds because it was VERY strong, and I like a sweeter onion taste if it's available. Next time I might even try Vidalias, since I'm in the South and all. I always cut my bread into generously sized pieces with the crust on, mainly because I can never wait long enough to get the recommended day old loaf, so my bread starts out quite soft and never gets very hard, though some people prefer to make this salad with croutons. You can toast your bread cubes in the oven instead of on the stove top if you like, but you will have to be careful either way that your bread doesn't burn. I like a lot of dressing, so I usually make a double batch and then pour whatever is left over on chicken. Once assembled, this salad tastes like summer, as far as I'm concerned. Fresh basil is not essential but sooo worth it if you've got it, of course. Yummy! Baby E loved every bite and J ate everything but the peppers, so it was a success for both old and young this time around. Hooray!