Recipe: Panzanella

Standard

If you were to ask me (and to be honest no one has so far) what is the mark of a great cook, my answer has nothing to do with perfect souffles, or homemade pasta. My standard of a great cook is someone who can produce great food with leftovers. If you can open your fridge and find nothing inside it that’s within sell-by date and still produce something work eating, you qualify!

The subject today is leftover bread. There are plenty of recipes that deal with this: toast, bread and butter pudding, french toast, poor knights of windsor (french toast for UKIP), but they all deal with your standard sliced loaf. What to do with the last few inches off a baguette which has done its usual magic trick of turning from crusty to fossilised in a few hours, or ciabatta? Well one suggestion is to put it in a salad. In this case Panzanella.

I’m not really going to do a recipe for panzanella because beyond six basic ingredients what you include depends on what you like and what’s available.

What you need for it are:
fresh tomatoes, chopped, about 3 medium tomatoes per person
stale bread, in 1-2cm cubes
olive oil
vinegar (any type as long as its not malt)
salt and pepper

Put the chopped tomatoes in a bowl, add the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well until the juices are coming out of the tomatoes. Add the bread cubes and mix into the tomatoes. Leave to stand so the bread absorbs the juices and softens.

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This is definitely a summer recipe. You want fresh tomatoes. Many of the recipes I’ve seen mention waiting for gluts of tomatoes at the end of the season, which is great if you grown your own. In my case, a two-for-one offer at the supermarket does just as well. Just make sure the tomatoes are ripe. The standard salad snooker ball will not work with this recipe.
Beyond the basic ingredients, what you add to it is up to you. Capers, olives, cucumber, spring onion, red onion, veggie tapenade, basil, mint, flat leaf parsley, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes – keep it mediterranean and you can’t go wrong.

I like this so much I sometimes buy more bread than I need so I can have the leftovers to make it. Shocking, I know!

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