Friday, September 9, 2016

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Summer wanes as we eat a plethora of tomatoes. Cooked, braised or raw, to me tomatoes are the taste of summer. A popular lunch item is an open faced tower. Good buttered bread, topped with thick slices of tomato, bufalo mozzarella and a scattering of basil leaves, and drizzle of EVVO..all piled on high. That's my lunch time staple.

Then there is panzanella. Bread salad Italian style. But oh it's so much more. You have to start the best of ingredients...especially the most flavorful tomatoes are crucial to the end result. Standard tomatoes will do in a pinch, but they cannot replicate the full bodied taste of a home grown ripe red tomato. Scour your farmers market or a specialty grocery store for the best selection. I experiment with many breads and like the tang of sourdough the best. I toast slices golden brown this time, though grilled sourdough slices make a delicious variation. The heavenly flavor of heirloom tomatoes seeps into sourdough croutons. Thinly sliced red onions add a bite. It has to be fresh basil scattered on top of the tomatoes. All this goodness is drizzled with the best olive oil and vinegar you can find. A generous pinch of salt and cracked black pepper are the only seasonings you need. Let the salad sit for a few minutes so the juices soak into the bread. If you must.

Serves 4-6

5-6 Sourdough Bead slices
2-3 Heirloom Tomatoes or any vine ripened Tomatoes
1/4 Red Onion
15 Basil leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin Olive Oil 
1/2 teaspoon red wine Vinegar 
A large pinch of Kosher or Sea Salt 
Fresh ground Black Pepper 

Toast sourdough slices.

Chop bread into 1 inch pieces and put them in a shallow bowl.

Cut tomatoes into large chunks half hour ahead of time and place in a bowl. This allows the juices to pool in the bowl.

Thinly slice red onion.

Start assembling the salad 10 minutes before you serve it.

Scatter tomatoes with juice and red onion over the bread cubes.

Shred basil leaves by hand onto tomatoes.

Whisk olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle over tomatoes.

Season and allow salad to sit for 5-10 minutes before you toss and eat.

I make this salad for two parties in a row. Both occasions are birthdays. Both birthday girls, Mary Lou and Elaine, enjoy the fruits of my labor. All I have to do is walk into the garden, pick the fruit and basil....just a little work to going into this delightful salad.