Sometimes when I cook, the recipe turns out exactly like I’d imagined it. Other times, not so much. One Christmas I tried to make peppermint stick sugar cookies and instead, they turned out looking more like misshapen lumps of pepto-bismol tinted dough sticks, better suited for the bottom of the trash bin than for a festive dessert platter.
Another time, I attempted key lime bars and the color that the neon lime zest produced when I whipped it with egg yolks and condensed milk can only be described as…well, I would rather not describe it. I’m trying to be appetizing here.
I am not trying to shill platitudes or sing songs here about how recipes don’t always turn out according to plan but that occasionally, the best kitchen messes turn into successes. The point that I’m getting at is that even though not all recipes turn out as planned, sometimes they are every bit as good as you hope they’ll be; sometimes even better.
So today, I’m here to tell you to make panzanella.
I understand that there is irony between making a salad, eating a salad and putting bread in your salad but it really is probably one of the best inventions since, well, sliced bread. I’ll stop now.
Panzanella is an Italian dish sometimes referred to as “leftover salad” and is usually made with cubed or sliced bread, tomaoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil and sometimes additional herbs or vegetables. Last year I made a three tomato panzanella with fresh heirloom, Roma and cherry tomatoes, capers and chopped fresh basil.
This recipe only utilizes one version of tomato and adds cucumber and red onion for a little extra crunch and kick. Make this salad a day before you plan on serving it to let the flavors blend together. The bread will soak up the dressing and it will be oh-so-good.
What You Need:
1 day-old crusty peasant-style whole-grain baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
2 large or 4 medium-sized tomatoes (about 1 pound), trimmed and each cut into wedges
3/4 cup sliced unwaxed cucumber
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
10 fresh basil leaves, shredded (or 1 tablespoon dried, chopped basil, in a pinch)
In a serving bowl stir together the bread, the tomatoes, the cucumber, the onion, the oil, the vinegar, the basil, and salt and pepper to taste until the salad is combined well.
Note: for best results, make this up to a day in advance.