Summer is almost over, you might say, but since the weather is nice and hot you can find juicy tomatoes at the farmer's market!
The main ingredients for the Panzanella are, in fact, the juiciest tomatoes you can lay your hands on and our filone toscano bread. Why? Because the filone toscano that we make is the traditional tuscan bread without salt (maybe the reason for the tuscan bread to be unsalted deserves a post in the blog by itself!) and the original recipe requires this kind of bread, being a tuscan recipe! Just remember to buy it a few days before you decide to make the panzanella, because it has to be 'raffermo' (dried).
Now, every town or village (actually, almost every mom and grandma) in Tuscany has their own list of ingredients, but I'll tell you the one my grandma used to make and I'll give you some suggestion for other ingredients to add.
Here's the ingredient's list, good for 8 people:
1 Tuscan STALE unsalted filone bread (you can find it in our JC location, baked fresh every morning)
8 big juicy heirloom tomatoes, but also cherry tomatoes
1 red onion or 2 shallots if you prefer a milder taste
a bunch of basil
extra virgin olive oil
Wash the tomatoes, cut them in pieces and put them in a colander on a bowl, so that all the extra juice is collected. Leave them there. If you have the stale bread, just cut it in small pieces. If you just bought the filone, cut it first in slices, then in small cubes and put them in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and put it in the oven at 320 f for 10 minutes, until crispy (but not too much).
The reason for this procedure is that the bread has to be 'raffermo', stale, at least 3 days old. To make a fresh filone become stale you just have lo leave it in a paper bag (not plastic) for 3 days. Or you can cut it when fresh (less difficult!) and put it in a pan 'open air' in a dry place (my grandma used to put the pan in our boiler room), so it dries naturally.
Cut the onion or the shallots in thin slices or cubes if you prefer. When your bread is ready and cooled down, you need to get it wet! Exactly: you don't have to drown it, just sprinkle some cold water evenly to make it moister. You will have also the tomato juice to moist it, so don't exaggerate with the water.
Now it's the time to put everything together! In a large bowl put your bread, then tomato juice, the onions, the basil (cut it with your hands in big pieces) and the tomatoes. Drizzle with generous extra virgin olive oil, white vinegar, salt and pepper and give it a good mix. Taste a piece of bread to see if the ingredients are well balanced and your panzanella is ready!
You can enjoy it as a light meal or you can pair it with a board of Italian cold cuts that you can find at Prato Bakery.
The panzanella is good for a couple of days, just store it in the fridge in a airtight container. It's actually better the next day because the bread absorbs all the juices..Buon appetito!
p.s.- You can decide to use also cucumber as additional ingredient. If you like to make it richer, you can add fresh mozzarella and/or tuna (the tin kind).