Monday, October 05, 2009

panzanella (aka grilled bread salad)

I'd bookmarked this Bitten recipe to try a while ago, and when I realized I randomly had all the ingredients, I tried to just use the one in Bittman's How to Cook Everything instead of the one online. Turns out he's simplified things since the book was published and eliminated some annoying step about straining tomato seeds. I'd go with the online version (but definitely go with it, because it's tasty).

(Bittman's notes; I did it in the broiler and the crunchy/chewy magic totally worked.) If your bread isn't quite stale, you can dry the bread in the oven or use the grill or broiler. The latter method not only dries the bread more quickly but, by charring the edges slightly, also adds another dimension of flavor.

1 small baguette (about 8 ounces) or other crusty bread (before broiling, I rubbed the bread with the clove of raw garlic I was about to chop; not sure if it did anything!)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used about 1/8 c white balsamic instead)
2 tablespoons diced shallot, scallion or red onion
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (optional)
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup or more roughly chopped basil or parsley

1. Start gas or charcoal grill, or preheat broiler; rack should be 4 to 6 inches from heat source. Cut bread lengthwise into quarters. Grill or broil the bread, watching carefully and turning as each side browns and chars slightly; total time will be less than 10 minutes. Remove, and set aside.

2. While bread cools, mix together next five ingredients in a large bowl. Mash tomatoes with back of a fork to release all of their juices. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut bread into 1/2- to 1-inch cubes (no larger), and toss them with the dressing.

3. Let bread sit for 20 to 30 minutes, tossing occasionally and tasting a piece every now and then. The salad is at its peak when the bread is fairly soft but some edges remain crisp, but you can serve it before or after it reaches that state. When it's ready, stir in basil or parsley, and serve.

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