Now that I’m baking 5-7 loaves of bread each week, I always have the last few inches of the old loaves left over. I can only use so much bread crumbs, and my waistline can’t afford French Toast and Bread Pudding, so I’ve been trying to find ways to use up the bread.
Last night, I fixed an Italian bread salad called panzanella. Basically, it is a combination of fresh tomatoes, oil, vinegar, herbs and cubes of stale bread. There are probably as many variations as there are households in Tuscany since it was originally a first course dish for busy households that would help fill up the family’s tummies before the main course. One or two day old bread mixed with good fresh ingredients certainly could fill up my tummy.
Some recipes call for soaking the bread in water and squeezing the water out before mixing with the other ingredients. Others just suggest moistening the bread with drops of water. Still others recommend toasting the bread or sauteing the bread in olive oil. Other ingredients could be lemon juice instead of vinegar, capers, onions, garlic, tuna, cucumbers, and a whole selection of fresh herbs.
I cut the thick slices of 2 day old bread into cubes and sauteed them in olive oil with slivers of a large garlic clove until golden brown. In the meantime, I chopped up 3 tomatoes, sliced half of a small red onion, tore up a small handful of basil mixed with a little Italian parsley, and a few oregano and mint leaves. I mixed those with about 1/2 t. sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper. When the bread cubes were done, I picked out the garlic slivers and chopped them up and added the garlic and bread to the mixing bowl with the tomatoes. The bread absorbed the juices from the tomatoes as well as the oil and vinegar. I prepared the rest of the meal and let the salad wait for a while so that the flavors could meld together.
This could easily be converted to a salad entree with the addition of meat or cheese, some arugula or a combination of salad greens. I’ll try that later this summer. I’m still waiting for my own garden’s tomatoes to ripen. I have about 50 getting ready to redden. Heaven. I’ll be in heaven.