You’ve got to love Italian cuisine, including salad. The Italians seem to have the magical know-how to turn thrift turn it into a gourmet feast. For example, in the poorer areas of the Italian Riviera where flour was scarce, they’d roll out a very thin layer of dough that they’d then stuff with whatever greens and mushrooms they could find. These tortas sprung from need but would be at home on the menu of the best restaurants.
The recipe we’re covering today is another prime example of the Italian gift with economy. Panzanella, a salad made with stale bread, comes from the Tuscan region, and the quality of the ingredients determines the quality of your dish. The Country Loaf is ideal. When buying your tomatoes, use ones that actually smell like tomatoes. Use the freshest onion and cucumbers.
Also, purists may protest, but this salad seems to be fairly flexible. While researching this recipe, some of the additional ingredients I found included pine nuts, capers, shallots, kalamata olives, and various kinds of cheeses.
I went with some parmesan cheese and finely chopped Marcona almonds because that’s what I had on hand, and it turned out wonderfully. However, fair warning: Marcona almonds tend to be a bit pricey. Feel free to substitute regular almonds or pine nuts. It was so good, though, I plan to use the Marconas whenever possible.
Country Loaf Panzanella Salad with Marcona Almonds
- 3/4 of a full Abigail’s Oven Country Loaf
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil: divided
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 large tomatoes
- 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
- 1 small cucumber, seeded and sliced thin. I prefer English cucumbers for this.
- 1/2 a red onion, sliced thin and quartered
- 1 handful of butter lettuce
- 1/3 cup basil, sliced thin
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- 1/3 cup chopped Marcona almonds
- 1/3 cup shredded parmesan. I prefer Parmesan Reggiano.
- salt and pepper to taste
Cut up the country loaf into 1-inch cubes. Heat up the olive oil and toast the bread until brown and crispy. Set aside and mix all the other ingredients together in a large bowl, including the rest of the olive oil.
When the bread is cool, mix it with the vegetable mixture and sprinkle with a little extra parmesan and chopped almonds.
Traditionalists say to let this salad sit for a while, and others prefer serving immediately. I’ve tried both ways and loved both. It just depends on how crispy you want the bread to be.
I’d leave it out for at least five minutes, stirring occasionally, so the bread soaks up the flavors.
Author: Michelle Hubbard is a graduate of Brigham Young University with an English degree and an editing minor. She won Leading Edge’s “Best First Chapter” award and later joined the publication as a slush reader and editor. After attending the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Sandy, Utah, she became a volunteer and this June was her ninth year as an assistant. She was also a writing officer for Misha Collin’s charity Random Acts, for a period of time. A draft of her middle-grade novel, Oscar and the Ghosts of Paris, placed second with the Utah Arts Council. She lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah, with her husband, sister, two children, and far too many pets.