This classic italian summer salad, PANZANELLA, is inside my June lunchbox, like I promised on my latest post on how to cook with radishes, remember?
I am questioning myself all the time if it still makes sense, in our overdigitilatized world, to explain something like a traditional recipe, especially an italian one. I can easily imagine you reading this, and ignoring what a panzanella is (but smiling because the name sounds so extremely italian and funny right?), immediately opening a new tab on pinterest or google images looking for images referred to the term and find plenty of recipes and variations over this salad. Well, this is at least what I usually do! But please stay here! I will resume here a bit shortly what it is this summer dish and then move over to my version:) Resuming: panzanella is one of the classic center Italy recipe, with plenty of versions from Tuscany to Rome: a raw salad, really poor, made up of rests of dry bread, rehydrated with the juices of summer: tomatoes, a high quality strong extravergin oil, basil leaves. A few veggies more, celery over all, vinegar and that’s it.
Personally speaking I adore this recipe because it’s reminds me of those neverending summers with my granpa, a true lover of traditional roman cuisine and amazing cook, preparing it early in the morning for all the family to have it ready for lunch after the beach. But I am not my granpa, I don’t have plenty of hungry kids waiting to sit for lunch, I share my table just with one man, who appears to just hate the concept of wet bread (and oh yes, traditional panzanella is all about let soaking the bread a while and the result is quite fluffy and spongy). Oh, he also hates the celery, damn. Well, for sake, the truth is sometimes the real secret ingredient of a recipe is love, that let you customize a new version of your most precious summer recipe to share it with your loved one. Isn’t it?
My version still has bread, of course but I leave it crunchy, I don’t soak it. I just stir fry it with some oil to keep it crispy. Substituting celery is easy, summer offers a variety of great veggies to put in the mix: I choose radishes & cucumber combo, they always work together, but feel free to experiment your favourites. Instead of the classic big salad tomatoes, I prefer to use tiny cherries confites: I usually make tons of them all along the summer and I have always a jar full in the fridge. They add a nice sweet touch and they don’t have so much liquid, to avoid fluffiness…
The final touch is the vegan pesto of radish leaves. This is just because I try to be consequent and use every possible part of the veggies I cook. It’s really a waste throw all those green leaves full of benefits. It has a delicate taste and it works great with basil. In addition it will give a extra smooth creaminess to the salad, because the result has to be a bit “wet”. Just remember to buy from local and organic source tough!
Ingredients for the PANZANELLA MY WAY for 2 picniquetters:
150 g of rests of bread*. You can use what you have, also a dry one, the point is recycle;)
1 garlic clove
fresh chives and plenty of fresh basil
1 big green cucumber
300 gr tomates cherries confites**
10 radishes with leaves on
half of a red onion
white wine vinegar
extra vergin oil (a strong flavored variety)
For the Radish leaves vegan pesto:
e.v. oil + salt+ radish leaves + peeled pistachos
*I used a mix of rye bread and majorcan pan moreno, because it’s quite similar to the tuscan unsalted bread.
**If you don’t have tomates confites, just try with some other quality summer tomatoes. The point is to find a good tasty variety or some sun-dried tomatoes in a jar.
1. Let’s make the bread crunchy: put it a mixer to cut it in small pieces (no too tiny) and stir fry with oil, salt and the entire piece of garlic until it becomes crispy and flavored.
2. Now let’s make the vegan pistachos pesto: Mix all the ingredients in a food processor. There’s no real big secret but I will give you some tip: keep the ingredients in the fridge for ten minutes just before mixing. This will help to keep it more green. Also: mix it with pulsing, like mix one second then stop, then mix then stop. This will also help!
3. Cut the red onion and leave it 10 minutes in a bowl with cold water and vinegar. This will make it more digestible and low its strong flavour. In the meantime cut the cucumber and the radish in small pieces, (the smallest, the cutest;) mix in a big bowl with salt and vinager. (Don’t use too much salt because also the pesto is quite savory!). Then mix it with the crispy bread and the onion and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to go! The more it stays, the better it will taste;)
4. Before leaving to your picnic just add the pesto, basil and chives, mix well and…enjoy your lunch, especially in the nature or at the beach!
Pics © Picniquette