A panzanella is a bread salad, so don’t forget that. But we are using heirloom tomatoes here as well. And for the tomatoes I would go with a bright and colorful assortment; maybe yellow ones, purple ones, green ones. Whatever looks good to you. But do be mindful of the bread. It should be two to three days old (stale matters) for the proper texture. There is an Italian proverb about scooping up the crumbs of bread you’ve wasted with your eyelashes before you can be admitted to heaven. I think that was one of the provisions of SB 1070 that was tossed out by the Federal District Court over immigrant angels, legal or not. Recently I tasted a perfect panzanella in a local restaurant which reminded me of the fact that the bread (croutons) in the salad require just the right amount of toothiness. You are not feeding this to infants. - pierino —pierino
Test Kitchen Notes
Having only dabbled in unconventional panzanellas, I was eager to try a more authentic version and had a hunch pierino would deliver. I dared not deviate from the recipe – letting the bread sit on the counter for three days and harvesting the basil only moments before tossing, as instructed. The rustic Italian bread I used didn’t hold its crouton shape very well once it was tossed with the other ingredients, so the salad wasn’t pretty, but it was sublime. Each element, from the bitter greens to the bread (crumbs), was perfectly balanced to make the heirloom tomatoes shine. Grazie mille, piereno! - Midge —The Editors
mixed heirloom tomatoes
pound cherry tomatoes, heirloom or not
stale bread, crusts removed
cup red wine vinegar
cup fresh basil leaves
cups mixed microgreens, or whatever sharp flavored small greens you can assemble or forage for
Begin with the bread. Cut up your stale bread into small pieces, crouton size: 1” to 2” to your liking. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with cold water to moisten. Slowly drizzle the vinegar over the croutons. Let rest for 2 minutes. Using your clean hands, squeeze the liquids out of the bread and move to another bowl where you will assemble everything.
Slice the tomatoes into smallish wedges. Wash and slice the cherry tomatoes into half pieces.
Rinse your greens and spin dry. Tear the basil leaves up—you’ve just picked them, right?
Wash your hands again. Combine all of the above with your clean hands and then add the oil slowly, season with salt and pepper, unite all of this together by the clean hand method and serve. Facile, no?
Note to the cook: Nothing spoils a panzanella more than soggy bread except for, on the other end of the spectrum, a dry crouton. The bread is an integral flavor and you have to handle it correctly. It should be moist and chewy at the same time and the tomatoes must taste like tomatoes and not wax paper.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.