Sometimes, the best of part of the meal is the fresh bread, but day-old bread is usually not welcome at the table. Throughout culinary history, some inventive ways have been devised to save dry, stale bread from the bin. The French deserve credit for the cute, crunchy little croutons that are the star of a classic onion soup. Middle Easterners save pita by toasting it, then breaking it up over a fresh, lemony Fattoush salad. The Italians do it with Panzanella.
I cannot seem to get sick of this salad and have an unavoidable urge to finish whatever is left in that bowl. All this talk about Panzanella made me so hungry that I could not stop thinking about it. So I just ran to the fridge to grab what little leftovers we have to munch on while writing to you. It certainly helps that I’m married to Farmer Shawn and enjoy homegrown tomatoes. They taste like sweet candy right off the vine. The basil is also from our garden. Invest in quality ingredients. Try different brands until you find the ones you like best. Al Wazir is our olive oil and Valbresso is our favourite feta cheese.
Inspired by River Cottage Veg
1/3 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 good handfuls of vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
2 Persian cucumbers
1/2 a loaf day-old baguette
10 pitted kalamata olives
1/2 a small shallot
1 1/2 tsp capers, rinsed
handful basil leaves
2 Tb crumbled feta
Wash cucumbers and tomatoes.
Rinse basil leaves under cold water, set aside to air-dry.
In a big bowl, grate the zest of the lime, extract its juice,
drizzle olive oil, sprinkle black pepper.
Use a fork to blend dressing until it thickens to an opaque lemon-yellow sauce.
Slice cucumbers and tomatoes into the bowl.
Very thinly slice the shallot and add about 1 Tb to the bowl.
Add the capers and olives.
Tear basil and bread over the lot.
Use two spoons to toss gently.
Thanks to Andrea for suggesting this one, many a half-loaf of baguette has been saved from the bin in a mouth-watering combination of signature Mediterranean flavours. Once again, I have strayed from Hugh’s instructions a bit and embellished with a few variations. I assure you the results are fabulous and if I have lucky enough to find Hugh reading this post one day, I hope he will taste it and smile with approval.
One bite will have you convinced this is what you want for dinner on any summer night. So light and refreshing, yet hearty and satisfying, rustic Panzanella features all the elements of a classic time-tested salad. What will surprise you most is seeing everyone fighting over those odd-shaped chunks of stale bread.