Throughout Central Italy, from Florence down to Rome, the most satisfying of salads is based on that old standby of the ingenious poor, bread and water. Stale bread is moistened, but not drenched, with cold water, the other ingredients of the salad you’ll find below are added, and everything is tossed with olive oil and vinegar. The bread, saturated with the salad’s condiments and juices, dissolves to a grainy consistency like loose, coarse polenta. Given the right bread—not supermarket white, but gutsy, country bread such as that of Tuscany or Abruzzi—there is no change one can bring to the traditional version that will improve it. If you have a source for such bread, or if you have made the Olive Oil Bread and have leftovers, make the salad with it in the manner I have just described. If you must rely on standard, commercial bread, the alternative solution suggested in the recipe that follows will yield very pleasant results.
This was the Hazan version which was better than either the Roden version or the FoodWishes version! Here is a Guardian article on the perfect Panzanella.
For 4 to 6 servings
- ½ garlic clove, peeled
- 2 or 3 flat anchovy fillets (preferably the ones prepared at home as described), chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon capers, soaked and rinsed as described if packed in salt, drained if in vinegar
- ¼ yellow sweet bell pepper
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon choice quality red wine vinegar
- 2 cups firm, good bread, trimmed of its crust, toasted under the broiler, and cut into ½-inch squares (keep the crumbs)
- 3 fresh, ripe, firm, round tomatoes
- 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced into ¼-inch cubes
- ½ medium onion, preferably of a sweet variety, such as Bermuda red, Vidalia, or Maui, sliced and soaked as described
- Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1. Mash the garlic, anchovies, and capers to a pulp, using the back of a spoon against the side of a bowl, or a mortar and pestle, or the food processor.
2. Scrape away any part of the pulpy core of the sweet pepper together with the seeds, and dice the pepper into ¼-inch pieces. Put the pepper and the garlic and anchovy mixture in a serving bowl, add salt, olive oil, and vinegar, and toss thoroughly.
3. Put the bread squares together with any crumbs from the trimming in a small bowl. Puree 1 of the tomatoes through a food mill over the bread. Toss and let it steep, together with a little salt, for 15 minutes or more.
4. Skin the other 2 tomatoes, using a swiveling-blade peeler, and cut them into ½-inch pieces, picking out some of the seeds if there are too many of them. Add the soaked bread squares and the cut-up tomato to the serving bowl, together with the diced cucumber, the soaked and drained onion slices, and several grindings of black pepper. Toss thoroughly, taste and correct for seasoning, and serve.