Italian Panzanella Salad Recipe
4 cups (1 to 3 day-old bread) Italian-style bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes*
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 anchovy fillets, diced**
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup good-quality aged Balsamic Vinegar or red wine vinegar***
2 cups fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into large bite-size pieces****
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup diced red bell peppers
1/4 cup diced yellow bell peppers
1/4 cup Kalamata or Nicoise olives, pitted
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)
* Use sturdy, coarse, rustic-style white bread cut into 1/2-inch thick slices. If you do not have older bread, you can use fresh crusty bread. Cut the bread into big cubes, lay the cubes out on a baking sheet, and put in a 300 degree F. oven for 5 to 10 minutes (until the outer edges have dried out a bit - not toasted, just dried). If you use fresh bread without doing this, the bread may disintegrate into mush in the salad. Do not use "stale" bread, only use older (1 to 3 day-old bread).
** Anchovy Paste may be substituted for the anchovy fillets. 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste is equal to 2 anchovy fillets. You can also adjust the amount of anchovies used according to your taste. To purchase Anchovies and Anchovy Paste, check out What's Cooking America's Kitchen Store.
*** Balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar may be combined.
**** Learn How To Peel Fresh Tomatoes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to middle of your oven.
Spread the bread cubes on a large baking sheet in a single layer; dry in oven approximately 10 minutes; remove from oven and set aside and let cool to room temperature.
Gently toss prepared tomatoes and teaspoon salt in large bowl. Transfer to colander that is set over bowl; set aside to drain for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Reserve the drained tomato juice in case you decide you need it in the salad dressing or for another recipe.
Using a mortar and pestle, mash the capers, garlic and anchovies until you have a smooth paste. Place in a large bowl.
Whisk the olive oil and balsamic vinegar into the anchovy paste until combined. Add some of the drained tomato juice, if desired. Add the toasted bread cubes and toss thoroughly. Add tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, red peppers, yellow peppers, olives, basil, coarse salt, and pepper. Toss the ingredients gently to coat. let marinate in a cool place (not the refrigerator) for 1 hour or longer so all the flavors can mingle and the bread becomes permeated with the juices of the tomatoes. Do not refrigerate or you will destroy the texture of the tomatoes.
Before serving, toss the salad gently and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.
Makes 12 cups.