Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I made this panzanella for a wedding, but the recipe I developed was for 77 people. When one of the guests requested a copy, I had to modify (and test) it for a smaller group. Happily, I had an opportunity on Sunday to do just that! Another guest at the wedding requested the panzanella on the menu for her 70th birthday party and I was happy to oblige.

As with all things, but especially with simple things like panzanella, the quality of the dish is directly proportional to the quality of the ingredients. I think people like this dish so much because I used real (wild yeast) sourdough bread from a local bakery, a mix of fresh organic heirloom tomatoes, and Cabernet vinegar that I made from lovely Napa cabs. I would encourage you to seek out the best ingredients you can find.

4 cups sourdough bread cut into 3/4" cubes
4 cups mixed heirloom tomatoes cut into 3/4"cubes
2 cups arugula, washed and shredded
1/4 c reggiano parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler

1 c basil, shredded
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper

At least one night before you make the dish, cut your sourdough bread into cubes and leave it out on the counter in a paper bag to get stale. Using stale bread will keep it from breaking down and melting into the salad. If your bread is very stale, you can mix this salad up to an hour before serving. If your bread is closer to fresh, you'll want to drain your tomatoes in a colander prior to tossing and serve immediately.

Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil into the vinegar slowly. Add the onion, half the basil, and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the salad, mix the bread and tomatoes and arugula in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining basil and garnish with reggiano parmesan shavings.