Panzanella Salad is a delicious mix of tomatoes, cubes of crusty bread, and a rich dressing. Does it surprise us that this salad, that has been around since the 14th century, didn’t originally include tomatoes. A previous post about a bit of tomato history is here. It just wasn’t that tomatoes weren’t available in Europe until the 16th century, they were suspect as a food source long after. The first references to this salad described it as a mix of onions and stale bread. The recipe of that time consisted of pieces of bread soaked in water and vinegar and then tossed with any fresh vegetables that were available. Onions have long storage time and were often the freshest produce around. That doesn’t really sound that appetizing but with the reputation of the tomato, who am I to judge?
In the middle ages, bread was a staple of life and a precious resource for families. Most households did not have an oven inside their residence. People had to use the communal ovens in their village to bake bread for their tables. Oven space was finite, so bread was baked only when ovens were available. Couple this with the inability to store the bread well and the loaves often became stale before the next baking day. Panzanella salad is thought to be a way that people of that time used their stale bread so that it wasn’t wasted.
The tomato remained absent from this salad until the twentieth century when availability was increased and superstition was decreased. Not only is this salad a good repository for leftover bread but any fresh vegetables in the refrigerator can be added. So in keeping with the concept of Don’t Toss It-Eat It, use any leftover bread you have on hand, such as, the last of the dinner rolls, the remainder of a loaf of bread too large for your family, or the heels that no one wants. Toast them for Panzanella instead of tossing them.
Panzanella Salad for Two
1 cucumber, sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 Bell pepper (any color), diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
2 TBS chopped parsley
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1 TBS lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan[/recipe ingredients]