On my most recent trip to Italy, I did not get to sample the rustic Italian salad of Panzanella. I would have loved nothing more to sample panzanella, cooked lovingly by Italian nonna's and overlooking a beautiful scenic view. I first made this rustic salad way back in 2011 when I was just starting out my cookery book collection and sampling new cuisines and flavours. Gosh, I feel old. Tomatoes are in season and if you head to your local market you can pick up some good fresh and succulent tomatoes. One of my favourite salad cookbooks (yes I have a small collection of salad cookery books) is a Salad For All Seasons by Harry Eastwood. Whilst this panzanella is not unique (loads of Italians would have their own version and this is a salad covered by many well known chefs), I really like this version. Easy to make, lots of flavour and nothing too complicated. If you want to make this veggie, omit the capers, but keep them in, if you do like me which is to serve with a piece of chicken. Perfect for Summer nights.
1.5 kg ripe tomatoes on the vine, rinsed under the tap
1/2 tsp soft brown sugar
300g stale sourdough bread, torn into roughly equal chunks
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
120ml extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, smashed and minced into a paste
2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed under the tap (optional)
1 large red onion, very thinly slice
1 cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and cut into rough chunks
a large handful basil, roughly torn
Roughly chop the tomatoes. Put in a bowl and sprinkle with the sugar as well as a good pinch of salt. Let the tomatoes stand for 20 minutes then add the bread. Stand for a further 10 minutes, so that all the tomato liquid at the bottom of bowl I absorbed by the bread.
Mix the vinegar with the lemon juice and olive oil. Toss the tomatoes and bread with this dressing, then add the remaining ingredients before serving.
Making this salad slightly ahead when you eat it means that the flavours will have extra time to infuse and mingle, which will only improve the flavour.