Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tuscan Panzanella

My fiance and I are headed to Tuscany in just over a month for our honeymoon, so I'm getting in the mood for all things Italian.  The title of the recipe for this beautiful summer salad caught my eye, as a result, and I thought I'd bring a little bit of Italy to my table tonight.  Panzanella is a classic Florentine salad, of day-old bread, tomatoes, onion, and basil - in short, summer on a plate.

  • 4 (1-ounce) slices Italian bread
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
  • 2 pounds tomato*
  • 1 (16-ounce) rinsed and drained can cannellini beans
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Trim the crusts from the bread slices and discard the crusts.  Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, and coat the bread cubes with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, until toasted.  Set aside.

2. Core the tomatoes, and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Combine the tomatoes in a large bowl with the basil, red onion, olives, and cannellini beans.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, water, olive oil, garlic, black pepper, and salt.  Pour the vinegar mixture over the tomato mixture, and toss to coat.  Add the bread and toss well.  Serve immediately, before the toasted bread gets soggy.

I served this main dish salad with easy eggplant napoleons on the side: arrange 12 (1/4-inch thick) slices eggplant on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Coat the eggplant with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Broil for 2 minutes on each side.  Place 4 eggplant slices on a work surface; sprinkle each with 1 and 1/2 tablespoons shredded Daiya mozzarella.  Top with a basil leaf.  Repeat the layers (1 eggplant slice, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons mozzarella, 1 basil leaf), then top each napoleon with a final eggplant piece.  For a nice finish to the evening, bring out chilled dessert bowls of lemon sorbet. 

*There are, of course, wonderful, multicolored heirloom tomatoes on the market stands right now, but I always find that panzanella is best with simple, red, ripe, juicy tomatoes. To easily core the tomatoes, cut them into quarters, then slice the core out of each quarter.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 255

Tasting Notes:
Fantastic!  These fresh ingredients needed no embellishment - just delicious bits of tomato, basil, bread, and olive on each forkful.  The white beans added a nice layer of heartiness and depth, and the subtle flavors of the dressing were perfect. 


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