I adore panzanella and have tried lots of different variations in pursuit of a really, really good recipe. The one I now use is a combination from Nigella Lawson's Kitchen, Hugh Fernley-Wittingstall's River Cottage Every Day and The River Cafe Cookbook. While the ingredients and quantities mostly come from Nigella, I borrowed Hugh's technique of saving the juice from the tomatoes and I added blackened, peeled peppers as The River Cafe do. If I were making the panzanella just for me I'd also add anchovies and capers.
Panzanella is a brilliant recipe, using up tomatoes which are beginning to overripen and stale ciabatta. If your ciabatta isn't stale cut it into 2cm cubes and leave it out for a few hours. Deseeding the tomatoes is a must and I find that cherry tomatoes make the task easier.
This salad can be made in advance and it keeps for up to two days but it must be eaten at room temperature otherwise it loses all of its flavour.
- small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
- ½ clove garlic, crushed
- 60ml good quality red wine vingear
- 500g ripe tomatoes
- 250g stale ciabatta, cut or torn into 2cm cubes
- 2 yellow or red bell peppers
- large handful basil
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp sea salt flakes
- Black pepper
- Turn your grill on and set to a high heat.
- Pour the vinegar into a large bowl that will comfortably contain all of the ingredients and add the onions and garlic. Leave to steep for at least 15 minutes, longer if you can.
- Place the peppers under the grill and turn occassionally until the skins have blackened all over. Remove from the grill and leave to cool.
- Place a sieve over another bowl and deseed the tomatoes over it so that all of the juice is captured. Discard the seeds and add the tomato juice to the bowl with the vinegar. Give the onions and garlic a good stir.
- Chop the tomatoes into small-ish chunks, then add to the vinegar bowl along with the olive oil, stale ciabatta and half the basil.
- The peppers should have mostly cooled by now. Remove the stalk and seeds then peel off the black skin. Chop the flesh into small chunks and add to the bowl.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Give everything a good mix, using your hands to scrunch everything together.
- You can now leave the salad in the fridge with the remaining basil on top, or eat it straightaway, mixing the remaining basil straight in.