When I was a kid, I didn’t think too much about my food. If I liked something, I ate it. If not, well, I would sit at the kitchen table for a very long time until I found a good way to make it disappear from my plate. Maybe if I had felt more invested in what I ate, I would have been more willing to expand my palate. Perhaps if I had been involved in the preparation or cooking, I would have cared just a little more. That’s what I like about Panzanella. It’s such a simple dish that even kids of a very young age can help put it together and, by doing so, feel like they have some control over their dinner.
Panzanella is an Italian tomato and bread salad that is nothing short of ideal for a warm summer evening — when it’s too hot to cook and so hot that you don’t feel like eating anything too heavy. I always seem to have a slightly stale loaf of bread hanging around and more tomatoes than I can possibly eat at once. This is a great way to use up both.
If you have kids, be sure to get them involved in the process. I can see much of the work here being done by hand without the use of a knife. While in the kitchen together, maybe you could have a nice conversation about tomatoes, or basil, or the importance of eating healthy, local, seasonal, or whatever food aspect you might be most passionate about.
You can easily make this a little more complex or filling. Try adding in fresh mozzarella cubes, hot peppers, olives, anchovies, and/or capers. Or serve on a bed of salad greens or as a side to grilled veggies.
- 8 ounces crusty or stale bread
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
- 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
- 1/4 cup or more roughly chopped or torn basil
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the bread into large cubes and spread it onto a baking sheet—Bake until crispy and just starting to turn golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove bread from the oven and cool slightly. You could do this a couple of days in advance and continue with the recipe when ready to serve. Instead of cutting the bread, you could have a helper tear it into pieces.
Mix oil, vinegar or lemon juice, tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a large bowl with salt and pepper. Add in bread and basil. Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve and enjoy.