Like so many good traditional dishes, panzanella was born of thrift, created as a way to use stale bread. It’s an Italian salad that has toured the world and picked up ingredients and ingenious additions at every port. The basic dish is chunks of dry bread, sometimes soaked in water and sometimes not, tossed with tomatoes, vinegar (it can take a fair amount of acidity) and oil. The juices from the tomatoes, as well as the oil and vinegar, seep into the bread, saturate it and flavor it deeply. A handful of chopped herbs at the end, and that’s all you need.
Dorie’s version includes peaches (or nectarines), red onion and lemon zest so it really packs a lot of flavour into one mouthful. I used sourdough bread which made lovely croutons but really, any bread here (preferably day-old so it’s easier to slice) will work.
I’ve actually made this a number of times (including last summer when Dorie first published the recipe on her site (link below – we don’t publish the recipes in full for the Cook the Book Fridays posts unless we have permission from the publisher but luckily this week this recipe is online for you to enjoy before the tomatoes and peaches are gone!) and each time it’s a little different. I can tell you the peaches, plums and nectarines work well here. Cherry tomatoes and regular tomatoes are both great (in the version pictured here you can see tomatoes and basil from our garden – which makes it taste even better, I think!). All different sorts of bread works in this dish. Of course, it’s best when the produce is in season which makes it a perfect late-summer dish to enjoy!
Get the recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s Tomato and peach panzanella on page 99 of Everyday Dorie or here.
About measurements, Dorie says: I’ve measured everything for you, but I think you’ll enjoy the salad more if you put it together by look, feel and taste. The amount of bread is really whatever you’ve got; the oil is as much as you think you need; ditto the onions; and the vinegar is truly to taste. I like the salad sharp — especially when the tomatoes and fruit are summer-ripe — but you might want to tone it down. Taste and add as you go.
This is so important with a recipe like this. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe exactly. As I made it again (and again), I freestyled according to what I had on hand and, in summer, it really is the only way to go. If you have the ends of a loaf of bread, a tomato and a peach and you think there’s “nothing to eat”, you’re wrong – you’ve got the makings of this salad! Lunch, solved!
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