With the exception of Jesus, no one ever seems to encounter the problem of having too little bread. Just look at the myriad recipes created expressly to use up leftovers: crostini and croutons, bread pudding and bread crumbs. With all due deference to good bread and skilled bakers, are we simply making our loaves of bread too big?
The simple answer, is no. Leftover bread is a gift, and its value is no more apparent than in Panzanella, and Italian salad of stale bread and tomatoes. The salad is dressed with sharp vinegar and olive oil to soften the bread. Paired with garden fresh tomatoes, the large croutons make the salad light, not heavy.
You don’t even have to wait for the bread to get stale. Grab a fresh, toothy, crusty, country loaf, cut it into large 2″ cubes and fry it up in a little olive oil. You may never encounter leftover bread again.
Make sure the bread has toasted through so it holds up to the dressing.
- 6 cups country bread – a crusty, spongy loaf, cut in 1” pieces
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 large, perfect tomatoes, cut into 1″ pieces. My favorites are the heirlooms Brandywine and Black Cherokee.
- 1 red onion – Candy Sweets from the farm market are great in this!
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp mustard
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff! A buttery round Frantoio would be perfect!
- Toss bread in 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Toast bread in a 400 degree oven or a sauté pan over medium heat until golden brown and crisp. About 5-7 minutes.
- Toss together tomatoes, onion and basil.
- Make dressing: pound garlic and a couple healthy pinches of coarse sea salt into a paste. Whisk together garlic paste, mustard, vinegar and black pepper.
- Drizzle in oil in a thin stream, while whisking, to form a creamy emulsion.
- Check the dressing with a piece of tomato. Season to taste with additional, salt, oil or vinegar.
- Add bread to the tomatoes and toss through with the dressing.