JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day


Monday, July 23, 2007

Panzanilla


















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.

9 comments:

Ilva said...

How fun, I just prepared my post for tomorrow and guess what it is? yes, panzanella! But it's a bit different so they complement each other.

Cottage Smallholder said...

I love tomato sandwiches so I'm already a fan without tasting even tasting it!

Ronell said...

I agree with you on simplicity and given that I adore a simple tomato sandwich with only salt and pepper, I can't go wrong on trying your version of this panzanella!
Ronell

Joanna said...

I never make tomato sandwich, but now I see that I am really a tomato sandwich addict. I just have to make some ... Thanks Ronell, Thanks CS

And Ilva, I'm looking forward to making your version for tomorrow's lunch. I've got plenty of bread, and lots of tomato ...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

This is really my favorite all time salad! And it must have perfect tomatoes and really good bread!

The Passionate Palate said...

Joanna - the picture looks like you toasted the bread first. Did you? Just curious as that might be good, too. I have to make panzanella today as this looks so good.

Toffeeapple said...

Oh my, don't you know how to set a girls juices going? I simply have to make that tonight, but I plan to toss the bread in oil and chopped garlic and bake it for a while to get slightly crisp and warm. Thanks for the idea.

Joanna said...

I didn't toast the bread, although I left it hanging about to dry out for an hour or so after I cut it. I photographed it when it was ready to eat, so the colour you see is the oil and tomato juices ...

... having said that, it would be good with toasted bread. The key thing is to let it all mingle for half an hour to an hour, otherwise it's just another salad with croutons - delicious, but not panzanilla

Let me know how you get on

Joanna

Toffeeapple said...

Plans were scuppered so I shall probably do it on Thursday now...c'est la vie!