Using a few good quality ingredients such as very ripe, organic hothouse tomatoes, cucumber, fresh basil, red onion and the best extra virgin olive oil, this is a fabulous way to make the most of some slightly stale, leftover ciabatta-type bread.
Panzanella is a classic Tuscan salad and there are numerous version out there, some containing caper and anchovies – but I prefer to keep things simple and this is one of the loveliest and most colorful summer salads you’ll ever eat.
Approx 1lb (half a kilo) of stale (but no rock-hard) crusty bread, cut into four or five thick slices
4 large ripe tomatoes, or the equivalent amount of small tomatoes
1 medium to large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 hothouse cucumbers, peeled and cut into rough chunks
1 cup (240ml measure) of firmly packed fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
1/2 cup (120ml) of extra-v olive oil
3 tablespoons (45ml) of the best red wine or sherry vinegar you can find
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Start with the bread. Put the slices in a large bowl and cover with room temp water. Allow to soften for a minute or so, then gently squeeze out any excess water.
Tear the bread into good bite-sized pieces and discard any remaining tough crusts. Put the bread into a salad bowl.
Chop the tomatoes into similar sized chunks and add them to the bowl along with the cucumber, onion and torn basil leaves.
Whisk the oil and vinegar together (I like to use a small screw top jar and give it a good shake until you have an emulsion) – season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss everything together until all the ingredients are coated with dressing.
Allow the salad to sit at room temp for 30-40 minutes to allow the flavors to develop, before serving.