Everyone deserves a second chance and an opportunity to reinvent themselves. I think a recipe should have the same shot and this week’s dish is the perfect example. Panzanella is a Tuscan salad that was once considered a poor man’s dish, made of stale bread soaked in liquid (usually water) and tossed with tomatoes and vegetables. I remember the first time I tasted Panzanella. I was visiting friends in Orvieto, Tuscany, and my hosts prepared the salad by soaking the stale bread in milk. It was then wrung out in a clean dish towel and the bread was tossed into the rest of the ingredients. It was unforgettable and heavenly. These days, Panzanella has gone from a poor man’s dish to a very trendy feature on restaurant menus. Everyone has their own version of this bountiful bowl of goodness and here is yet another one. This Panzanella is made with large chunks of fresh bread (grilled, not soaked) and tossed with peppers, onions, shallots and a chile pepper. The traditional tomatoes were removed altogether. I love this version because it can be made ahead and enjoyed for days. It just gets better as the flavors meld. Panzanella, the poor man’s dish that got reinvented into a trendy plate, rich in flavor and nutrients!
- 1 French or Italian baguette
- 4 tablespoons melted butter plus 2 olive oil, mixed together
- 6 tablespoons additional olive oil, divided
- 2 red bell peppers halved, ribs and seeds removed
- 2 red onions peeled, quartered, with root attached
- 3 large shallots, peeled
- 1 large Poblano Chile, halved and seeds removed (optional)
- 4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Heat grill, grill plate or large grill pan to medium high heat. Slice baguette lengthwise. Combine 4 tablespoons melted butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Brush on the inside of both pieces of bread. Grill bread, turning occasionally, until bread is golden brown and charred grill marks are produced on both sides. Set bread aside. In a large bowl, toss bell peppers, onions, shallots and chile with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Grill vegetables, turning often, until tender and charred in spots, about 8-10 minutes. (Onions will fan out when attached to root.) If grill pan is too small, you can grill vegetables in batches, setting aside each batch when done. When done, trim root end from onions and separate layers. Remove skin from charred peppers and chiles, and cut in 1 ½ inch strips. Keep shallots whole. Return all grilled vegetables to the large bowl. Slice bread so that each piece is about 2 inches and add to vegetables. Add vinegar, 4 tablespoons of remaining olive oil, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat. Serve warm or chilled.