Friday, August 13, 2010
What's a real panzanella?
But I don’t very often veer off my self-induced safe path when cooking at home. So every once in a while, I decide I’ll try something new Italian! My target was panzanella. All I really knew about panzanella before I started reading that it’s basically a salad made with stale bread and fresh tomatoes.
I opened up a little can of worms! To be truly authentic, I learned, the bread in panzanella, which is considered a Tuscan dish, is soaked in water for a few minutes, then shredded. Other marks of authenticity are anchovies, capers, and basil. Some recipes included cheese, either mozzzarella or Parmesan. But most of the recipes I consulted for my base – I knew I’d want to change something – called for toasting bread cubes. What a quandary! Do I try and stay authentic or do I follow the pack?
How a recipe, or rather good cooking, evolves is all about change. It’s not changing something or adding a personal imprint just for the sake of individuality; it’s accommodating individual tastes and making good use of what’s available.
One thing I’ve always admired about Italian cooking is the lack of waste – everything is put to use or reprised in a new role.
So this “panzanella” is not authentic; it’s an amalgamation of all that I read. It is important not to soak the bread so it either has to be really stale or toasted before you toss the salad with the dressing.
I added kohlrabi, even though that’s certainly not traditional. (It was going to go to waste if I didn’t use it soon.) And I added a cucumber, too, because a neighbor had just given me one. The kohlrabi gave an nice extra crunch to the salad. I sneakily put it in. My husband had to ask, “What’s the crunchy stuff? It’s not celery.” So I had to fess up.
(I just realized that this will be the fourth salad in a row that I’ve posted. Hey! It’s summer. Something else next time, I promise.)
adapted from Better Homes & Garden, June 2010
4 medium roma tomatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
½ medium red onion, cut in thin wedges
1 medium yellow sweet pepper, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 small cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
½ t salt
8 oz. ciabatta