Saturday, June 12, 2010

La Panzanella-Bread and Tomato Salad

It has been over a month since we designed and ordered our kitchen.  A very long and frustrating month it has been.   I have hosted a lovely lunch outside under the Gazebo, had my first swim at Lago di Nemi, and enjoyed amazing strawberries at the Sagra delle Fragole.  At the same time, I have no place to put any of my kitchenware.  We have lived here since the end of April, but I do not yet feel unpacked or settled in.  There is a lot to do.  Most of what I want to do with this house and property are landscaping and gardening projects.  I am looking forward to the enormous potential of this place, the land, and I am forging a friendship with my neighbor down the road.  She is incredibly generous and kind.  I am blessed in this regard.  The apricots and figs are finally ripe which means summer has officially begun in these parts.  How great would this time be if I could make amazing meals for the people I love?   The terrace and the gazebo were the real selling points for the house, besides the enormous size of the kitchen.  I am so anxious to get started, to put my kitchenware away, and get cooking!
     Luckily, I live in the bread basket that is the Castelli Romani.  I have bread from Genzano or Lariano available to me, there are local veggie and fruit stands so I am buying the freshest produce.  Summertime, in this case, means we don't need a lot of prep to make a nourishing and delicious meal.
   I am always amazed by the plates of the region that have their roots in total poverty.  They were born out of the concept of making due with what we have.  Sometimes, these families might have only some stale bread and a few vegetables at hand.  Nowadays, people pay top dollar for these dishes in the priciest trattoria of Rome and beyond.  Panzanella is a great example of this food culture.  Ettore and I debate whether this is a true Laziale dish or if it comes from Campagna. For me it is from Lazio.  Irregardless, is there anything more heavenly than the sweet combination of ripe summer tomatoes and basil?  Panzanella is so simple, so filling, and utterly delicious.  I have made it a few times because all that I need are the following:  A cutting board, a bread knife, ingredients and a bowl.  There is no cooking involved, and it can makes a lovely lunchtime meal.  It is light, fragrant, and cool.
    Thank goodness for dishes like this!  Without them I would be still living on pizza and take-out.

Panzanella-Bread and Tomato Salad

  • 1/2 loaf of crusty, stale, rustic Italian bread, sliced into 2 cm pieces and then cut up messy into bite size pieces(about 10 slices from the loaf)
  • 1/2 kilo ripe cherry tomatoes sliced into quarters
  • 10-12 sprigs of basil broken into small pieces
  • 6 TBSP of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  I like the fragrant oil from Alatri
  • about a 1/2 TBSP of coarse Celtic sea salt
  • about three turns of the pepper grinder for pepper
  • In a Large Salad bowl, put the sliced tomatoes and basil and stir everything together
  • Add the olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Let this mixture stand without bread for at least an hour.  Room temperature is best, but also in the fridge would be fine.  This will ensure a much more fragrant salad as the tomatoes and basil will have time to marinate in their own juices for a time.  I also add about a TBSP of water.
  • After and hour, add the bite size bread pieces, stir everything and let it sit for a few minutes so the breadt absorbs the flavors and juices.  If you need to add a bit of water and more olive oil and stir again.  The bread should be moist, but retain its bounce.
We enjoyed this with a lovely chilled Frascati, although I think it would have been nice with a Rosato

Buon Appetito!!