Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Perfect Summer Salad!

The heat in San Antonio (the entire state of Texas) lately has motivated me to come up with recipes that require very little oven/stove time.  The recipe below is a very old Tuscan Salad that farmers would take out into the fields in Italy "back in the day".  As is often the case, these old rustic recipes often make their way out of the humble beginnings from which they were created and onto the plates of the most sophisticated of palates.  Many of these recipes were also created to use up leftovers or ingredients that would normally be considered "past it's prime".  So it is with this recipe for Panzanella Salad.  Stale bread that might normally be thrown away makes a debut in this really nice summer salad. 
There are two ways to make a Panzanella Salad.  One way is to tear the stale bread into pieces and soak it in water for a few minutes.  The water is squeezed out and becomes the base for the salad.  Another option is to brush the bread with olive oil and maybe sprinkle sea salt and fresh ground black pepper over it before cutting it into cubes and toasting. Either method is acceptable and is based solely on personal taste.  Try both ways and see which you prefer.  All of the amounts listed below are just a place to start from.  Adjust ingredient amounts to suit your own taste.  If you prefer less red onion, more tomatoes or cucumber adjust accordingly.

6 cups of cubed stale bread either toasted or soaked in water.  If soaked, squeeze as much of the water out of the bread possible and crumble into a large bowl.
4-5 large ripe tomatoes- rough chopped
2 cucumbers. (cut cucumber in half lengthwise and then slice into 1/2" discs)
1 med. red onion sliced thin
1 red bell pepper seeded and sliced
Olives- your favorite- halved
1/2 C. torn fresh basil leaves

2/3 C red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/4 C. good extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
Sea Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Toss salad ingredients together and drizzle dressing over top.  Mix well. Cover and let stand one hour for flavors to fully develop.