Growing up pseudo-Italian (I say “pseudo” not because the heritage is in question, but because out of the ~50ish people who would wander in and out of my aunties’ dining rooms on holidays, I was the one blonde, acne-ridden child in a sea of lovely Mediterannean women), I learned to love bread.
I mean, who doesn’t love bread? But, if I’m being biased, I think Italians do bread best. Crunch on the outside, soft on the inside and basically a miraculously versatile combination of complex carbohydrates.
(I say that like I know the difference between complex and simple carbohydrates; I’m sure I did once but, you know, my high school biology lessons have gone the way of the dinosaurs.)
One of the very best things about Italian bread is that some enterprising person from my ancestral homeland figured out that not only could it accompany salad; it could be the salad. Thus, I present my perfect summer panzanella:
- 6 cups of day-old Italian bread, cubed or torn into 1-inch pieces
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 6 cloves garlic, divided
- 1/2 Tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 Tsp. black pepper
- 2 Tbs. pomegranate or red wine venegar
- 4 large ripe tomatoes (preferably mixed-color)
- 3/4 cup sliced Vidalia or red onion
- 1 handful torn basil leaves
- 1 Tsp. oregano
- 1 Tsp. rosemary
- 1/2 cup halved black olives (Kalamata if you like things saltier)
- 1 hothouse cucumber
- 1 red bell pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Toss bread with 1/3 cup olive oil, salt, pepper and the garlic cloves; toast until golden-brown (5-10 minutes) and cool
- Place half the now-roasted garlic cloves in a food processor with 1/3 cup olive oil, vinegar, and salt/pepper to taste
- Slice the onion, chop the bell pepper and cucumber and tear the basil leaves (if you like roasted veggies, roast the oven and pepper)
- Toss the vegetables, herbs, bread and garlic/olive oil mixture until everything is well-coated and serve at room temperature
- Happy eating!