I read recently a peasant maxim that the gods punish those who waste more than their weight in bread during their lifetime. This half-remembered truth has been haunting me ever since. Especially if you broaden its message to include all food waste.
So. Panzanilla for lunch. I can't now think why you'd want a tomato salad without bread in it. And it's one of those recipes that demands to be made ahead: restful for the cook, who can potter around with other things.
Mine was very simple - just cherry tomatoes, basil, old bread, olive oil, a little Maldon salt. Some recipes make a terrific meal of this, adding onions, capers, anchovies. But the joy of panzanilla is its simplicity, made with the best ingredients you can find.
I really want to stress that part ... this is something you make only in the summer, when tomatoes are in season and full of flavour, when the basil has been grown in the open air and tastes of something. But above all, this is a salad you make with proper, decent bread. Decades ago, when I first began tentatively to cook, I tried to make this with Mother's Pride. It was a disaster. Slimy, tasteless, a real lesson that it's worth taking pains over basic foods.
Quantities - well, if you've got a lot of leftover bread, use more of it. If you've got a glut of tomatoes, use more of them. For a generous salad for five, I used three slices of bread and about 30-40 cherry tomatoes. I cubed the bread quite small, but if it had been baguette I might have torn it into quite large chunks. I quartered the tomatoes - you need them to give up their juices.
When I make a tomato salad, I very often dress it only with oil and salt, then leave it to mature for half an hour. If you prefer the taste of vinaigrette with your tomatoes, then go ahead and use that. The key is to have plenty of liquid soaking into the bread.
Lay the tomatoes into a shallow dish. Add the bread and some chopped basil. Crumble a pinch of Maldon salt over this, drizzle generously with oil or vinaigrette, and mix. Leave for at least half an hour, an hour would be better.
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