Good fortune smiled upon me last weekend. I live a few blocks from a local farmer’s market and I go there almost every weekend. Last weekend it happened to be raining (not hard, but definitely raining). I kind of like it when it’s raining a bit because it means that the market is less crowded!
I also learned that you can get a steal of a deal from any outside bakery when it’s raining. This makes pretty good sense because baked good and rain don’t mix too well. I picked up a baguette and two small loafs of really good bread for just a few bucks.
As I was walking home, I was kind of at a loss as to what to do with all this bread that just fell in my lap. When I got home though I saw that Panzanella salad had won the poll for the week! That kind of stuff never happens!
Let’s just say that I was pretty excited to let one of my loaves of bread get stale.
Yield: Serves 4.
2 Cups stale country bread, ripped into pieces
1/2 European cucumber, diced
2 Cups ripe tomatoes, diced (I used cherry tomatoes and halved or quartered them)
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, about one ball
3-4 Tablespoons fresh basil
1-2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar (I like mine vinegary)
3 Tablespoons olive oil (I just eyeballed it)
Salt and pepper
1) Dice or rip your stale bread into chunks. If it isn't really stale, toast the pieces in the oven at 250 degrees for a few minutes.
2) Drizzle about 1 Tablespoon of white wine vinegar over the bread pieces and let it marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
3) Chop up all the veggies and chiffonade the basil.
4) Toss everything together and drizzle in the olive oil and more white wine vinegar to taste. Also taste for salt and pepper.
5) Serve at room temperature.
Adapted from the Capital Cooking Cookbook.
You can use a huge assortment of bread for this salad. Almost anything that’s a few days stale will work fine. If your bread isn’t really stale, or if you’re using store bought sliced bread, toast the bread in the oven at 250 degrees for a few minutes to dry it out even more.
Like I said, I use a loaf of bread that I basically stole from the bakery stand at the farmer’s market. This cost me $1.
Once you have your stale bread, rip it into pieces (or rip it into pieces and then toast it if you want it crispier). Add the bread pieces to a bowl and drizzle in a bit of white wine vinegar. I just eyeballed it, but I would guess I used 1 Tablespoon. Let that marinate while you prepare your other stuff.
The Other Ingredients
The other ingredients for this are pretty standard. Use the ripest tomatoes you can find and if you can try to find a European cucumber because they have smaller seeds, but if you can’t find one, no big deal.
Some of the best flavors in this dish comes from a lot of fresh basil and fresh mozzarella cheese.
The best way to add basil to a salad like this is to chiffonade it. Sounds fancy. Looks fancy. But it’s dead simple to do. Start by taking all your leaves and stacking them on top of each other.
Then roll them into a tight ball.
Then chop chop chop!
Combine this with all your other chopped veggies.
Mix your veggies in with your bread and drizzle in the olive oil and a bit more white wine vinegar to taste. Also taste it for salt and pepper.
The best part about this salad is how some bits of bread are really crunchy and some are a bit soggy and flavorful. The textures are really great and the fresh ingredients make the flavors really pop.
I served this salad as a side for a roasted chicken I made over the weekend. It was a perfect side dish for the chicken and reminded me a bit of the Zuni roasted chicken dish.
I think this is maybe my number one way to use stale, leftover bread. Sure. You can make bread crumbs out of it or french toast or bread pudding (Mental Note: I need to make bread pudding).
But in the hot summer, this just really hit the spot for me.