Sunday, August 23, 2009

Panzanella Salad

This summertime weather is perfect and overdue. It feels like early July with low humidity and lots of sunshine. But it's actually late August which means lots and lots of fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes are one of my top 3 all-time favorite foods (mushrooms and fresh mozzarella cheese being the other 2). And good grief, when tomatoes are in season they can knock your socks off.

This is a panzanella salad, which is basically a rustic bread and tomato salad. Sounds weird but it tastes amazing when you use top quality ingredients. And it tastes even better with a glass of chilled white wine on your back deck while the sun sets.

Panzanella Salad
6 slices day-old ciabatta bread
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 Tbsp capers, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
4 large fresh local tomatoes, diced
5-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Brush the bread with olive oil and grill on a grill pan until charred. In a large bowl, soak diced onion and capers in the red wine vinegar and dijon for 3-5 minutes (this helps mellow out the sharp onion flavor). Cut the grilled bread into cubes and add to the onion mixture with the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, and healthy drizzle of olive oil. Gently toss with your hands or tongs.

Many recipes for panzanella instruct you to let the salad sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to meld together but I ate this right away (topped with some grated parmesan) and it was fantastic. I like it when the bread still has a crunchy texture, but it's also good after it sits and the bread gets all soggy and takes on the great tomato/basil/onion flavors.

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