Thursday, April 24, 2014

Panzanella Beer Bread and Tomato Salad - 52 Do Ahead Salads

Panzanella- "Panzanella or panmolle is a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar"
OK... Let's get two  disclaimers out of the way forst.  Much as I like to make authentic Italian dishes (For fun, take a look at my "52 Authentic Italian Recipes" page).  This is not authentic Panzanella.  I took a BIG liberty and adapted to my tastes.

Authentic Panzanella will have stale bread soaked in water and then squeezed.  I have tried this in authentic Italian restaurants and followed careful directions in a book and from a TV episode from a famous Italian-American chef... Did not at all care for any of those versions.

My version... LOVED IT!!!  the bread was not stale, instead I toasted the cubes with a little Olive Oil drizzle under the broiler.  Then, instead of soaking I soak the Onions, Peppers and Tomatoes in a vinaigrette over night.  Instead of the bread soaking I just fold the cubes into the soaked vegetables, flavoring the bread but still letting it mostly save it's crunchy texture.  For me at least... MUCH BETTER (Sorry famous Italian-American Chef).

Next disclaimer is an apology to my Mother and my Southern Baptist roots.

I made this with a hearty loaf of Beer Bread.

Just yesterday I posted my version of Beer Bread (The easiest to make of any fresh made bread).  I made this with a very hearty English Porter style Beer (My Hometown, Kansas City's own Boulevard BULLY! PORTER).  While cooking, the alcohol does cook out (Did you read that, Mom???), leaving the dark roasted hops and malts that flavor the beer but NO Alcohol.  Beer bread is always dense and holds up well to the tossing with the tomatoes without breaking up.  Remember I like that texture.  This bread was a perfect choice for the salad.  Loads of flavors, strong enough to survive being tossed around and able to be flavored with the vinaigrette, but not lose it's texture (not mushy).

And just to really make you go back and look, I used a cup of the fresh made Jam Jar Honey Mustard Vinaigrette that I posted yesterday as well.  Jam Jar vinaigrettes are about as easy as possible to make.  Well under 5 minutes and always better when you can control the salt, sugar and preservatives that are in so many of the store bought over-processed salad dressings.

And so finally, enough apologies, time for the heart warming part of the post.  This recipe is perfect when you can get truly fresh ingredients.  Heirloom Tomatoes are all over the place this time of year.  As close as your area Farmer's Market, maybe even your own back yard or any well stocked produce section of a grocery store.  There is nothing like a fresh tomato.  Of all of God's bounty, for me at least, I measure everything by the taste of that tomato.  the salad shown is loaded with red ripe tomatoes, beautiful flavorful yellow heirloom tomatoes as well as some sweet Red Onions that are best in season as well right now.

So, this recipe would be my seasonal gift to my friends at family... Maybe for a family gathering, Holiday meal, neighborhood BYODish party or for my personal favorite, the Church PotLuck dinner.

This is simple to make... A little special,  a quick made Bread (Ready in an hour, no rise time), a quick made vinaigrette (well under 5 minutes),  An overnight marinade (actually a little pickling of the red onions happens) a little stirring and a well timed folding in of the bread cubes and you have a fresh made, home made, brag worthy dish that is always well received. One of those, "Anyone can make this" Dishes that looks very complicated. Plus, as I like to say...

Church PotLuck Suppers are a chance to share God's Bounty with your Church family and friends. That bounty should be made with love and caring.

OK... Here's what I did...

Panzanella Beer Bread and Tomatoes Salad

  • 1/2 Loaf Beer Bread cut into 1 inch cubes, cubes toasted, can substitute almost any other type of bread
  • 1 Cup Honey Mustard Vinaigrette (Fresh made or can substitute store bought)
  • 2-3 Large Fresh Heirloom Tomatoes, in photo I used one red and one yellow, Chopped about quarter size (can substitute freshest available, in winter, usually smaller Roma Tomatoes)
  • 1 Large Sweet Red Onion, rough chopped (can substitute a "regular" Red Onion, if you do, slice the Onion is thin half moon size rings)
  • 2 Large Green Bell Peppers, Core and seeds removed, chopped same size as the onion and tomatoes
  • Several Basil Leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • Several grinds of a Cracked Pepper Mill
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large bowl, mix Tomatoes, Onion, Peppers, Basil, Salt and Pepper and mix in the Vinaigrette. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate and let sit over night.
  2. 3 Hours before it is time to serve, gently fold in the toasted bread cubes.
  3. Just before serving give the mix one last stir.
  4. Serve chilled and Enjoy!!!

For extra color, texture and a sweet pickling taste, top with some Zesty Pickled Red Onions!!!


This recipe has been added to my growing list of "52 Church PotLuck Dishes"!

A list of something NEW worthy of being shown off at a neighborhood BYODish (Bring Your Own Dish) Party, a Family special occasion dinner, Any Big Holiday Gathering or of course that glorious day when you bring a dish to share with your Church family...

Ages ago, literally almost a half century ago I was listening to our pastor talking about a PotLuck Dinner. It happened to be scheduled around a church work day when we were expected to weed, polish and do general cleaning and maintenance around the church (you know, back in the day when there were no no-wax floors and church pews smelled of Old English furniture polish). I am of course paraphrasing, but as I recall the pastor said,

"A potluck, like a church requires work. At a potluck everyone is expected to contribute.. At a church no one should come empty handed and no one should leave unfed".
I will confess that in my youth I brought more store bought plastic spoons and forks than I ever brought covered dishes and crock pots of fresh made love and caring delights. But now that I have become a hobbyist cook, I occasionally am reminded of those days and people from my youth. I reminded and I do wish that I could drop a dish of some new creation on those old tables at my fondly remembered Liberty Baptist Church.  Tables covered with newspapers and loaded with God's bounty prepared with love and caring... Enjoy


So,  I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Grilling Time Secret Extras" or "52 Ways to Cook BBQ and Grilling Recipes"!!!

Well over 52 recipes actually as I just can't stop... Over 100 in one grilling season (I love to grill!). But not just leat... Drinks, Condiments (LOTS of different BBQ sauces), Drinks, Desserts... even specialty items like GRILLED Pizza, and fun shaped Watermelons.  Easy and these ideas will make you the MASTER of your Backyard Domain!


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