Monday, February 09, 2009

Rustic bread salad - Panzanella

Dear foodies,

I would call this a bhel puri made with bread instead, its that good. Now I love my bhel puri and would not give such a comment lightly :D Every time I make bread at home, the enthusiasm with which I consume it keeps decreasing with each vanishing slice, and the last few are the toughest. So I always have a problem using them up in ways other than a sandwich or toast. Sometimes I might make a upma or use the crumbs as a topping for another dish, but I'm stumped most times. I discovered that you can store bread in the refrigerator/freezer early last year, but even then its the same problem, just that it gets pushed by a few days (or weeks!). I watched a show on food network a few months back where, I don't remember who, was making a bread salad called Panzanella. Panzanella is a Tuscan dish whipped up by yet another enterprising cook, who like me might have had loads of
day old bread lying around. (stale just doesn't sound appetizing)

Traditionally, Panzanella is a salad made with day old bread, juicy ripe tomatoes & generous amounts of basil - a classic Italian combination. But soon each cook added his/her own flair to it and so you will now find Panzanella having onions, capers, garlic, anchovy, olives, cucumber, colored bell peppers & cheese in addition to the basic ingredients. My additions were avocado, and some juicy oranges, it brightens up the flavors and is a treat to bite into. This salad either is a smart way to use up day old bread, or an even smarter trick to get fresh vegetables on the dinner table :) And its just as delicious as this hearty Tuscan bean soup, another innovative dish to use up day old bread.

Tuscan recipes are known for their simplicity and choice of flavorful, fresh ingredients. No matter which combination of vegetables you choose, use the freshest produce you can find, preferably in season, local and organic. The bread can be any Italian style bread, sour dough, rye/ whole wheat bread. I had a loaf of Bee & Jai's Sundried tomato & Peppercorn bread. It definitely is one of the most flavorful breads I've made to date, second would be the potato focaccia. I was wimp while adding pepper though and might bump up the quantity next time. And just as they said, it works really well in sandwiches but is great to simply snack on too. Thanks for the recipe guys.
Panzanella - Bread salad
(serves 2-3)
  • 2-3 thick slices of bread, cut into 1" cubes
  • I used JB's Sundried tomato & peppercorn bread
  • 1/2 cup - Red onions, diced
  • 3/4 cup - Cherry Tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup - Cucumber, diced
  • I used English cucumbers and retained their skin
  • 1  - ripe Avocado, diced
  • 1  - Jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1  - Orange
  • 1/4 cup - Cilantro
  • 2 tsp - Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 tsp - Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Set the oven on Broil (low). Toss the bread cubes on a baking sheet and season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Broil for about 3-4 mins till they start browning and turn crunchy. Alternatively, you can toast them on a pan or use a toaster.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the rest of the ingredients together, making sure to coat the avocado chunks with the lemon juice, so they don't discolor. Section an orange like shown here. The fiber will still have some pulp holding on to it, squeeze it between your hands to extract all the juice. Taste and adjust the salad for seasonings.
  3. Toss the bread cubes with the salad just a few minutes before serving. If its allowed to sit for too long, the bread will soak up all the juices and turn soggy! You can store the salad separately in the fridge for a day in a covered bowl/plastic container.

I absolutely loved this salad and the bread had a major contribution in it, being slightly chewy & slightly crunchy. The stale bread can directly be used too but I love the crunch and enhanced flavor that broiling it with olive oil gives. The bread immediately soaks up the delicious juices from the vegetables but still retains a little crunch. I enjoyed eating it and picked a different assortment of veggies with each forkful...yummm.

The salad is great on its own too and you could easily add some puffed rice and turn it into the ever so popular bhel. Once you have this salad you will start storing fresh bread to use in it :) Coming to that, fresh bread can also be used in this recipe if that is all you have at home and can't wait to try it out :) Broiling dries it up (might take a little longer though) and so it is just as good at soaking up the flavors.

This salad is off to Vaishali's 'Its a Vegan World - Italian' event, visit her blog for more information about the event. You have until the end of this month to send her your vegan Italian creations.

How do you use up bread ? Any go-to sandwich fillers/combos and how do you pack it up for lunch ?

14 thoughts:

karuna said...

yummy bread salad loved your pictures.

Suparna said...

Hey Priya, the bread salad seems an easy and interesting dish :) This would be the perfect recipe for a holiday!!

One look at the pictures and I was drooooooooooooooo...ling...excellent capture.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting dish! & A great idea. now i know what to do with left over breads!

ur pics always make me want to grab & eat what ever u make:-)

Pavani said...

Love the flavor combination you have there Priya. Great pics. BTW I made Mango ice cream inspired from your recipe, check my blog when you get a chance.

Vaishali said...

Nice to see we think alike, Priya :)
I just love this mouthwatering salad and the gorgeous, vibrant flavors in here. A great way to use up bread. What a lovely recipe this is for It's A Vegan World: Italian. And what I also love is it truly defies the stereotypes most of us hold about Italian food being nothing other than pasta and pizza, all cheese-smothered, of course.
Thanks for sending it in.

veggie belly said...

There are some great flavors going on here! I like the orange juice idea to brighten things up, I bet some orange zest would be wonderful too!

Suganya said...

Perfect salad. Looks so good. Nice recipe. So colorful YUM!...

Anonymous said...

delcious looking salad... was looking at your recipe collection and have bookmarked a lot of soups :)

Shah cooks said...

love this salad! I wait for the bread to get stale to make this all summer.

Anonymous said...

i love the avocado in it :D

A_and_N said...

I love panzanella :)

Sandhya said...

That is drool worthy salad!

Anonymous said...

what does "nos" and "no" mean after the quantity numbers of some of the ingredients?

Priya said...

Anon, I used it to signify the number of units of the ingredient needed, for instance number of oranges/jalapeno's etc. The recipe is now modified.

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