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by on July 11th, 2010

Tuscan Bread Salad (Panzanella)

Have any left over bread and vine ripen tomatoes?

Panzanella is a tomato bread salad that is made with left over crusty bread and the freshest tomatoes and basil you can put your hands on. You can also use that leftover bread to make tomato bread soup. If you find yourself at a farmer’s market, pick up some extra tomatoes to make this salad.

Freshest of summer ingredients — tomatoes and basil.

When we were Italy several years ago we ate this salad and also made a wonderful tomato bread soup in a cooking class we took one day at the villa where we stayed. I hope to make the soup in the fall and will share that recipe with you.

Now in our house, if I were to make Italian bread or any kind of homemade bread, there would not be any left over the next day to make either of these dishes and certainly not even enough to feed to the birds. When my kids were younger that was their favorite part of the meal was homemade bread, cornbread, biscuits, and muffins. Growing up we always had homemade biscuits and cornbread. I never attempted to make Italian Bread or French bread until after I got married. I love making bread. There’s just something about getting flour all over the place and myself.

The other day our neighbors brought us over some beautiful tomatoes from their garden and I had some bread cubes left in my freezer from making my Cheese Souffle Puffs. Normally, for this salad, you tear up the day old bread and toss with the tomatoes. I wanted to try something different this time with the salad and decided to toast the bread cubes with some of the garlic and olive oil. I added them right before serving, tossed with the fresh chopped tomatoes, basil (from my herb garden), garlic and the dressing and the salad turned out wonderful. I really like the crispy edges of the bread squares. The better your bread, the fresher your tomatoes and basil, the better the salad will be.

These tomatoes were right off the vine ripe — Thanks Nora and Jim.

I used olive oil to toast the cubes. You could use butter or toast them in the oven. Or not toast at all.

There’s nothing better than summer tomatoes.

Tuscan Bread Salad (Panzanella)

4 medium tomatoes, cut in about 1″ cubes
3/4 c. fresh basil, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. shaved Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 c. crusty bread cubes
olive oil for toasting bread cubes – 3 Tbsp.

Dressing:

2 tsp. garlic, crushed
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil

Cube the tomatoes and set aside. Cut your crusty bread into 3/4-1″ cubes. Heat the 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and when hot, toss in 3 cups bread cubes and the 3 cloves of minced garlic. Toss until the bread has toasted being careful not to let the garlic get too brown. Set aside.

To cut the basil you are going to make a chiffonade. Stack about 10 leaves together and roll up like a cigar. Using a sharp knife cut thin strips and you have julienned basil. Toss this with your tomatoes.

For the dressing, put the garlic, red wine vinegar in a bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it has emulsified. Salt and pepper to taste.

About five minutes before serving, toss the toasted bread cubes with the tomato/basil mixture and drizzle over the dressing and toss. You may not need all this dressing. You want the bread cubes to soak up the dressing and they will get a little mushy but still have those crusty edges. Sprinkle with the shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

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