It’s the most wonderful time of the year – tomato time! If you’re fortunate enough to have a garden, you probably have tomatoes coming out of your ears. But if not, a wide variety of tomatoes are available at groceries and farmers markets. Tomatoes are at their peak, and it’s time to take advantage.
A great way to enjoy fresh tomatoes is panzanella. This traditional Tuscan salad uses tomato and bread as a base, and has been a favorite in Italy for centuries. Modern panzanella usually includes olive oil, salt, and pepper. However, other ingredients are often added. You’ll see lettuce, olives, mozzarella, capers, celery, red wine, onion, cucumber, parsley, bell peppers, garlic, and basil in different versions of this fresh and easy salad.
Ease is the key with panzanella – it’s the ideal salad for sticky summer days when produce is plentiful but it’s too hot to cook. You can make it as fancy as you like – see Ina Garten’s recipe for a more formal version of the salad – or you can just throw it together with what you have on hand. We tend more toward the latter option.
Here’s a good, basic panzanella recipe that won’t do you wrong. Feel free to improvise based on what tastes good and what’s in season.
2 large tomatoes, cubed
2 cups cubed ciabatta bread (or any crusty bread)
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
½ large cucumber, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Combine bread and veggies and mix thoroughly. Splash with remaining ingredients to taste. Serve immediately.
This version of panzanella is also great with chopped chicken breast, red pepper, or spinach. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
And if you just can’t face the kitchen but you want a taste of Tuscany? Head over to Trezo Mare. This intimate restaurant offers fresh, house-made Italian cuisine.