Tuscan bread salad – a winter panzanella

So I’ve been doing the whole ‘no carb’ thing for the last month and a bit. Trying to squish me into my post summer vacation clothes was like stuffing a sausage into its casing. Perhaps a little too much information, but I had to decide between a new wardrobe, a couple of sizes up, or shed some junk. Not to worry, this is not a weight loss post. Just needed you to know why a loaf of stale ciabatta is so exciting to me. How many times have you had left-over bread and wondered what to do with it?

Tuscan Bread Salad called Panzanella, invented by the clever housewives of Tuscany, is a brilliant salad featuring stale ciabatta bread.

Tuscan bread has no shelf life. It’s made of water, yeast, flour and salt; nothing to keep it from going stale. Rather than throw it out once the softness is gone, it’s ripped into bite- size pieces, tossed in extra virgin olive oil, toasted in the oven until it’s crunchy then turned into bread salad called panzanella. A classic panzanella includes the lovely homemade croutons, tomatoes, red bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion, basil and capers making it a perfect summer salad. Happily, we still have stale bread in the winter so a cold weather panzanella is a no-brainer way to use it up. My friend, Christie, served the inspiration for today’s post last week at our friend, Sheila’s birthday dinner. As mentioned earlier, I’d been off bread so when Christie placed my salad in front of me, I actually trembled with anticipation. What can I say; I love bread. The salad is fantastic. Crunchy warm croutons and pistachios, crispy pancetta, peppery greens, tart cranberries tossed in an herby, slightly sweet and sour vinaigrette. The original recipe is perfect. My changes are minimal.

TUSCAN BREAD SALAD – A WINTER PANZANELLA  slightly adapted from Saveur October 29, 2013
Heat oven to 400*F

12 oz. ciabatta, torn into bite-size pieces
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 ounces pancetta, diced
½ cup shelled pistachio nuts, chopped coarsely
2 shallots, thinly sliced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon wild honey
5 cups baby arugula/spinach mix
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup sunflower seeds [pepitas]

THE STEPS

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Toss ciabatta with ¼ cup olive oil.
  • Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Spread into an even layer on the baking sheet.
  • Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, 12–15 minutes.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Place a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat.
  • Fry pancetta until crisp, about 20 minutes, stirring often.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer to salad bowl; set aside.
  • Add shallots and chopped pistachios to the skillet and cook 4 minutes.
  • Add to bowl with bread.
  • Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, honey, salt, and pepper in another small bowl.
  • Slowly whisk in the remaining ½ cup olive oil until mixture is emulsified.
  • Add arugula/spinach mix, pistachio nuts, cranberries and sunflower seeds to bowl with bread.
  • Drizzle dressing over the top and toss well.

THE LOVE: Make sure that you hand tear the bread rather than slicing it with a knife. The rough edges grab the olive oil and get a lovely crunch while the inner sides are left a little softer after they’re baked. Also, the salad components can be prepared ahead and tossed together just before serving but it’s tastier warm so I recommend making it just before you need it.

Thanks for reading.

  • Kim Wanless

    LOVE this Michelle – as I have been doing the “off carb” thing as well!! 😀 Can’t wait to make this!

    • Given my love of Italian food this ‘cleanse’ has been so hard! Everything in moderation, I guess.

  • Gina

    We have this in our household all the time! It’s absolutely THE BEST, summer or winter. You post all the good stuff!! #nomnom

  • Kim Wanless

    Michelle, is it possible to have a “Print” option on your recipe site? I can copy and paste, but your Spectacularly beautiful photos sneak in! Thanks! 😀