Sunny , bright Saturday morning! Perfect kind of farmer's market day. Bags in hand and Bruce, my assistant, in tow, we scoured the market for the makings of panzanella, the Tuscan bread salad so prevalent in summer.
They never throw anything away in Italy and stale bread is no exception. I had a bunch of it leftover from a cooking class I did a few weeks ago so I brought it along. This was my day for "Shop with the Chef," the annual cooking class I donate to CUESA in support of the farmer's market.
We bought ripe, red dry-farm Early Girl tomatoes from Dirty Gril Farms, Armenian cucumbers and really aromatic basil from Madison Farms. Bruce had some homemade vinegar from his Paso Robles Cabernet grapes and we bought a nice bottle of Marsala extra virgin olive oil from Sciabica.
We didn't need much else besides some good hungry, eager shoppers/students who flocked at 11:00 AM!
TUSCAN BREAD SALAD WITH TOMATOES AND BASIL
1/2 pound rustic coarse-textured stale bread
6 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 /2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slice the bread into 1-inch slices. Sprinkle with 1 cup water and let sit 1 minute. Carefully squeeze the bread until dry. Tear the bread into rough 1-inch shapes and let rest on paper towels for 10 minutes.
In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. Tear the basil and add to the vegetables. Add the bread and toss carefully.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the vegetables and bread and let it rest in the refrigerator 1 hour. Place on a platter and serve.