The foodie salad panzanella really translates into bread soup, but that takes some of the shine and melody off the vine. It began as a combination of day-old soup and onions. A cheap meal for the peasants of Tuscany over five hundred years ago. Once tomatoes became a staple food off the vine after it was brought to Italy from the new world, it became bread and tomato soup . . . without any connection to Campbell’s soup.
In telling my cousin about the meal, I reminded her of our mothers (Oklahoma amd Missouri upbringings), who regularly prepared “breaded tomatoes” which combined canned tomatoes and day old bread, simply boiled on the back burner as a side dish. Breaded tomatoes is a long way from today’s panzanella, but not that far from the basics.
Peg and I usually have several different loaves of bread on the kitchen counter. I like sour dough muffins for breakfast with a fried egg, or a ham and spicy mustard sandwich to start off the day. This particular day, we had some sourdough loaves that had not been opened, and four tomatoes. I looked up the recipe, actually, several recipes and began taking stock in the fridge and the cupboards.
I found one recipe that contained most of what we had on hand in the kitchen and the pantry as well as some ingredients we could probably substitute for what we didn’t have. In addition we had a half bottle of chardonnay, which we had opened just two nights earlier. The wine was perfect for the meal.
I found a good looking recipe; most are about the same – foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/panzanella-recipe-1944317
We were fresh out of basil leaves, but we did have some fresh French Parsley. We had no capers, but I took some bread and butter pickles and cut them up smaller and used a paper towel to soak up the pickle juice and vinegar. I wish I had used balsamic vinegar as a substitute for Champagne vinaigrette or added it for more body. I also added a scosh of sesame ginger salad dressing.
My wife, Peggy wished that I had actually cut the bread cubes into one inch bread cubes, but the man-sized ones did a nice job. Once cubed they are thrown into a frying pan with some olive oil and a little salt and pepper. You need to baby sit the bread cubes for ten minutes as you turn them over for even browning and crunchiness. I didn’t want to saturate them with too much oil, so I prayed them with butter-flavored Pam in-between oiling them. The hardest part of the preparation is waiting the half hour as the bread soaks up the juices.
Once served, conversation mostly centered on “Why did you . . .” “How did you . . .” and then “We gotta make this again.”