Sunday, June 25, 2017

Time Wounded This Recipe; The Recipe Fought Back

panzanella (pan·za·nel·la)

My students, and even the young men I used to coach who now have their own children, know nothing of the dark ages of rotary dial phones, daily milk delivery, and day old bread. They also know nothing of polio, measles, mumps, and chickenpox, so I guess they win.

In those ancient times, and for hundreds of years before then, housewives and cooks struggled with what to do with foods that were past their best buy date. When sailing ships opened the spice trade to the Far East, Europe went wild. Those spices could hide meat and other ingredients that were perhaps just a bit "off."

In those times, bread was baked daily. How to use the day old, stale bread became something that mattered. Sweet and savory bread pudding is but one example of the solutions. The basis for this recipe is another.

Panzanella, or bread salad, was a Tuscan style recipe that combined day old bread, toasted, with fresh vegetables, olive oil, anchovy, capers, and acid from vinegar or lemon. Clearly, this stale bread solution was a work of genius.

Then modern food processing invented bread with a shelf life measured in decades. Panzanella became a lost and forgotten orphan of modern times.

I think the world was too hasty in abandoning poor panzanella. Not too long ago I saw a New York Times recipe for panzanella that highlighted grilled vegetables. At that same time, I had the remnants of a rustic loaf that Nancy baked sitting on my counter. From that serendipitous moment plus some research sprang this recipe. I use it whenever Nancy makes rustic bread, focaccia, or we take and bake bread.


2 cups of toasted bread cubes from home baked, take and bake, or rustic bread
1 zucchini, topped and tailed, cut lengthwise in quarters 
1 sweet bell pepper, seeded
1/2 large red onion, cut stem to root into 4 segments
1.5 cups diced tomatoes, seeded but with juices retained
1 clove garlic minced
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed, mashed, and minced
1 Tbs. capers, minced
5-7 large leaves fresh basil, cut chiffonade 
2-3 Tbs. EVOO
1-2 tsps. red wine vinegar or lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste


Slice your bread in 1" slices

Toast the bread in a toaster oven, on a grill pan, or outdoors on a grill.

Dice the toasted bread in 1" cubes.

Grill or broil the zucchini, onion, and sweet pepper until char marks show and the vegetables slightly soften.

Dice the grilled vegetables.

Add the minced garlic, the minced anchovy, and the minced capers to the vegetables. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices without the seeds to the vegetables. (Note: If you use cherry tomatoes, do not worry about the seeds.)

Add the bread to the vegetables and mix well.

Add a large pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well.

Refrigerate 1 to 4 hours.

Immediately before service add the basil, the olive oil and the vinegar or lemon juice. Mix well and adjust the salt/pepper/olive and oil/acid.

Serve with any roasted or grilled protein.

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