Today I harvested 15 pounds of ripe tomatoes! Some were so plump and tender that their sides burst just transporting them from the garden to the kitchen. I cut the split tomatoes into chunks and put them in a bowl figuring I'd decide what to do with them later.
In just minutes, the bowl was a super juicy mix. Like really juicy. All I could think about was sopping up that juice. and the hungry lightbulb above my head lit on a Panzanella salad, a delicious rustic bread and tomato salad from Tuscany. The key to a good Panzanella is really ripe tomatoes, which really can only come from someone's back yard. Store-bought tomatoes just aren't juicy enough. Also important: quality olive oil and vinegar, oh and hearth-baked "boutique" bread, because remember-- we are talking about a bread and tomato salad--only top notch, albeit humble, ingredients will make this salad some much more than the sum of it's parts.
To the tomatoes in my bowl; I added olive oil, vinegar, garlic, seasalt, then bread, then cucumbers, onion, arugula and lots of basil and it was AMAZING. Here is a recipe for you from my book "kitchen garden." It's a little more complex, so simplify it if you like.
Any firm textured bread with a good crust such as pain rustique or ciabatta bread will work. Serve the salad for lunch or Italian cold cuts for casual summer supper.
Country Bread, 8 ounces (half of a 1-pound loaf), thickly sliced very lightly toasted
garlic, 1 large clove
heirloom tomatoes, 2 pounds assorted, cut into thin wedges
cucumbers, 2 small unwaxed such a pickling or Persian cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
red onion, ½ very thinly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil, 6 tablespoons
red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons
wild capers, 2 tablespoons
kosher salt, ½ teaspoon
arugula leaves, 1 ½ cups baby or larger arugula leaves, torn into pieces
basil, 3 tablespoons leaves, torn into pieces
oregano leaves, 2 tablespoons
Parmesan Shavings, 2 ounces
Rub the bread slices with the garlic clove, using the entire clove. Combine the tomatoes with the next 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Tear the bread into 1-inch pieces and add to the tomatoes in the bowl. Stir to combine and let stand until the bread is soft and soaked with tomato juices, about 10 minutes. Add arugula, basil and oregano to the salad and toss to combine. Divide the salad among plates. Season the salads with freshly cracked pepper and garnish with the Parmesan cheese shavings and serve.