Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes! So many ways to eat tomatoes…caprese salad, good old-fashioned tomato sandwiches–good white bread, mayonnaise, and juicy tomatoes; a sandwich that has to be eaten over the kitchen sink. Then there is the BLT! All good, but what else can you do with the summer abundance of tomatoes? Obviously you can freeze some, or make sauce to freeze for winter use, but one of my summer favorites is panzanella, or bread salad. Since stale bread is a fact of life, even when you bake your own pretty much “on demand”, here is one of my favorite ways to use it up and to enjoy summer tomatoes.
This is a summary and adaptation of my “go-to” recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (pp. 554-555):
- 1/2 garlic clove, peeled
- 2-3 flat anchovy fillets, chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon capers, soaked and rinsed
- 1/4 yellow bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon good red wine vinegar
- 2 cups firm bread (cut into 1/2-inch squared), trimmed of crust and toasted
- 3 fresh, ripe, firm tomatoes
- 1 cup cucumber cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
- fresh-ground black pepper and salt to taste
- Mash the garlic, anchovies, and capers to a paste.
- Toss the pepper, garlic, anchovy, olive oil, and vinegar together in a bowl.
- Put the toasted bread (and any crumbs) in a small bowl.
- Purée one tomato in food mill; add to bread an allow it to steep for 15 minutes or longer.
- Skin and seed the other 2 tomatoes and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (picking out some of the seeds if there are too many).
- Add the cut tomatoes and the bread squares to the bowl with pepper, garlic, anchovy, oil and vinegar mix, and add the cucumber and the onion; toss thoroughly.
While the recipe calls for peeling the tomatoes, I don’t usually do this unless the skins are very tough–I’ve no objection to the extra fiber, and some objection to the extra work that peeling them takes. I don’t pick out seeds either–I think that the “jelly” surrounding the seeds adds extra flavor and an acidity that is lost by removing them–however, if you want a more refined version, by all means peel and remove seeds. (If you keep the “jelly” and seeds, it increases the tartness of the tomatoes, so you might want to decrease the wine vinegar–just taste it and season accordingly.) You can add fresh herbs of your choice–basil, marjoram, oregano, Syrian oregano (zaatar)–whatever strikes your fancy!
If this cookbook is not in your library, there is also a recipe for a simpler version of panzanella at Epicurious.com.
If you’d like to make this a meal in itself, add some good quality canned tuna or your homemade tuna confit to it. Cucumbers and onions are certainly optional. Some fresh mozzarella would work here too.
The basic recipe above makes four to six servings, but it’s very easy to cut this down to make a single-serving quantity–just eyeball it!
I decided that this had potential for a bacon, lettuce and tomato salad so I did some modification: omitted the anchovies, capers, and the pepper. I prepared the bread and the tomatoes as for the panzanella, and substituted balsamic (or rice wine) vinegar. I kept the cucumber for it’s crunch and freshness and the sweet onion, even though they are not part of the BLT. I added crumbled crisp bacon, and had this over romaine lettuce.
Since I did this improvisation (it just wasn’t something that I needed a recipe for), I’ve googled “BLT salad” and found lots of variations on that theme, especially with the dressing. Since I’m one who does like mayonnaise with my BLT, I’ve looked for dressings using it, but haven’t found anything I like better than the basic oil and vinegar, though I may be adventurous and try a creamy dressing with mayonnaise, thinned with buttermilk in the future.
A son goût!