Panzanella is a classic Tuscan bread and tomato salad, typically served with a vinaigrette made out of the tomatoes’ own juices. Traditionally it is made with stale bread, but I prefer the texture of fresh bread that has been lightly toasted. The beauty of this salad is that you can get creative and make it quite interesting by adding other vegetables like I do here with the addition of roasted bell peppers, caperberries and olives. It’s incredibly refreshing for a hot summer day but hearty enough to eat as a light supper or lunch.
½ pound rustic bread
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1½ pound ripe heirloom tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped*
q yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped*
1/3 cup caperberries
1 cup pitted black olives
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Cut the bread into ¾ inch chunks and drizzle with 1/4 cup of olive oil. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast lightly. Set aside.
Quarter the tomatoes and scoop the seeds into a mesh strainer set over a bowl. Using the back of a spoon, press the tomato pulp in the mesh strainer to extract as much juice as possible. Add the remaining oil, the garlic and vinegar to the extracted juice. Season the tomato juice dressing with salt, pepper and a bit of sugar.
Mix the bread, tomatoes, peppers, capers, and olives in a salad bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad. Allow to stand for about 30 minutes before serving.
* To roast peppers, you can either place them under the broiler and turn them as the skins become dark and blistered or you can put them on an open flame and char all sides. Once you remove the peppers from the under the broiler or the open flame, wrap them in aluminum foil and set aside for 10 minutes. Unwrap the peppers and with a spoon, simply scrape the skins off. Then you can proceed to remove the seeds and chop.