Panzanella (Bread salad)
- 1 lb rustic bread , stale
- 2 tomatoes , ripened
- 2 red onions
- 1 cucumber , (optional)
- 1 sprig basil
- extra virgin olive oil to taste
- vinegar to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
Cut the bread into slices and soak in cold water for a couple of minutes. Once heavy with water, remove a little bread at a time and squeeze out excess water using your hands. Then break apart into small, dry crumbs.
Place in a salad bowl and add tomatoes, cucumbers and sliced onion and basil leaves. Dress with oil, salt and pepper and move to a cool place.
When it is time to serve, add a splash of wine vinegar.
Mentioned by Boccaccio in the Decameronas “pan lavato”(or washed bread), panzanella is undoubtedly a rustic dish, originally made in people’s homes. It is commonly believes that the dish developed out of the custom of country folk to soak their old, stale bread in water and mix it with vegetables from the garden.
According to some, the word panzanella comes from the fusion of the words“pane”(or bread) and “zanella” (or soup bowl), while others believe it derives from the word “panzana”that originally meant “pappa”(or food). Regardless, panzanellahas always been enjoyed by people of all social classes, demonstrated by the fact that Agnolo di Cosimo, an artist who frequented the Medici court, dedicated a sonnet to the dish in his book “Della cipolla”,published in the 16th century.
Another “noble” version of panzanellaseems to have been served to Vittorio Emanuele, the King of Italy, by statesman Bettino Ricasoli, in 1865. At the time, the King was a guest in Ricasoli’s castle in Chianti for a hunting trip. The green of the basil, the white of the bread and the red of the tomato, recalled the colors of the newborn Italian Kingdom.
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