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Panzanella - Tuscan Bread, Tomato & Basil Salad

Panzanella is a traditional Tuscan summer salad. In its most basic form it is a strong white bread that is a couple of days old, great Tuscan olive oil, ripe tomatoes and basil. If you wish you can add peppers, anchovies, olives, red onions and capers to make it more interesting. It was a real pool side favourite at the Royal Sporting Club in Portovernere Italy.

 

Ingredients

Makes 6 servings
3
Ciabatta loaves, 1-2 days old
3
1 1/4 lbs
Fresh plum tomatoes
1 kg
4 cloves
Garlic, peeled, crushed to a paste
4 cloves
to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
to taste
1 cup
Tuscan extra virgin olive oil
250 ml
4 tbsp
Red wine vinegar
4 tbsp
3
Red peppers
3
3
Yellow peppers
3
1 medium
Red Onion, very thinly sliced
1 medium
2
Chillies, red, fresh (optional)
2
4 oz
Salted capers
100 gm
4 oz
Salted anchovies
100 gm
5 oz
Black olives, pitted
150 gm
1 large bunch
Basil
1 large bunch
Method
1/ Cut the bread in thick slices, break the slices up into large chunks and dry in the oven or grill until quite brown.
2/ Peel the tomatoes. Quarter and remove the seeds. Retain the liquid. Season the liquid with garlic. Add the olive oil and 2-3 tablespoons of the vinegar. Pour the liquid over the bread until it is absorbed. The bread should absorb the liquid without getting soft and soggy. If more juice is required then add a proportionate amount of extra virgin olive oil.
3/ Grill the peppers whole until blackened and put into a bowl, cover with saran wrap and let stand. When cool remove the skin and clean the seeds and cut into eighths lengthwise. If you use the chillies, grill until blackened, skin seed and chop finely. Cut the onion in half from top to bottom and slice as thin as possible.
4/ Rinse the salt from the capers and soak in the remaining wine vinegar. Separate the anchovies into fillets. Soak in milk to remove excess salt, drain and pat dry.
5/ In a large dish or on a deep platter, place a layer of the bread and cover with some of the other ingredients, then cover with another layer of bread and continue until all the bread and other ingredients have been used up. The final layer should have the peppers, tomatoes, capers, anchovies and olives all visible. Leave for one hour before serving and serve with additional Tuscan olive oil.

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