Like my gazpacho dish I published last month, panzanella has been on my radar for a while. The dish originates out of Tuscany and it's a tomato and bread salad that, like gazpacho, is also popular in the warm summer months when tomatoes are in season. This dish also allowed me to return to my roots by making food from scratch.
Making a pantry item from scratch to be used in another dish.
I guess you could say I'm returning to my roots in this respect too because I used Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking by Michael Chiarello with Janet Fletcher as my source. The croutons can be found on page 38 and the panzanella is on page 94.
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
6 cups crust-free, day-old bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more shaved slices from a wedge for garnish
2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups arugula
1. Make the croutons: Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. When it begins to foam, add the bread and toss to coat in the butter, then add the grated parmesan and toss again. Immediately transfer the bread to a foil-lined sheet pan and place in the oven, tossing the bread once or twice, until the bread is crisp and lightly colored outside but still soft inside, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
2. Combine the panzanella ingredients: Drain the tomatoes of any excess fluid in a colander while preparing the rest of your mise en place. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, basil, tarragon, croutons, salt, and pepper. Divide the salad onto serving plates and garnish with arugula and shaved Parmesan.
When I presented this salad to Mrs. Stuntman, she complained about the absence of protein (i.e. no bacon? fried egg?). Then she tasted it. I must admit, I'm not a huge fan of raw tomatoes, but it was one of the most well-seasoned and balanced salads I've eaten. I also wanted to get this dish in before the summer tomato season was finished this year. Chef Chiarello has also adapted the concept of the panzanella for the autumn, winter and spring using produce in season so I hope to profile those versions in the future.