Panzanella: Bread and Tomato Salad
4 servings
If your tomatoes are not exceptional, you can toss them in a little salt and drain them in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes before using. Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan also adds anchovies and capers to Panzanella. Although not traditional, they are worthwhile additions and I sometimes sneak them in, too. If you want to add them, use 1 tablespoon of capers, rinsed, drained and minced, and 3 to 4 anchovy filets, minced, to the dressing in step #3.
3-4 slices (4 ounces, 115g) hearty, country-style bread (stale)
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus extra for soaking the bread and onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons best-quality olive oil
3 medium tomatoes (1 3/4 pounds, 800g), diced
1 cucumber peeled, halved, and seeds scraped away, diced
handful fresh basil leaves, about 15 to 20, torn into pieces
1. Soak the bread in cold water with a splash of vinegar in it, until soft. (Depending on the bread, it can take between 2 and 10 minutes.) Remove the bread slices and squeeze them very dry with your hands. Set aside.
2. Add the onions to the cold water with another splash of vinegar, and let stand for 1 hour. Place the cucumbers in a mesh strainer and sprinkle with a little salt. Let drain for 20 minutes. (Or longer.)
3. In a large bowl, mix together the vinegar, garlic, and salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Stir in the olive oil.
4. Add the tomatoes to the bowl with the dressing. Tear the bread into bite-size pieces into the bowl. Drain the onions and add them to the bowl along with the cucumbers. Mix well and let stand at least 15 minutes. Add the basil leaves and mix again. Taste, and add additional salt and vinegar, if desired.

Note: Panzanella can be served soon after it’s made but it’s also fine to keep it at room temperature for several hours, making it a perfect do-ahead dish.