Tuscan Cucumber Tomato Salad Recipe
This delicious and unusual cucumber tomato salad recipe with bread is known in Tuscany as panzanella. Soaked stale bread is combined with tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar to make this salad, which is well loved in Italy, and sometimes basil and onions are added as well.
Bronzino, a sixteenth century poet and artist, used to love onions, vinegar and oil served on toast, and complimented this dish in print. On the next page he talks about a cucumber and onion salad. Combining the two results in panzanella. Bread in Tuscany must be bought every day because it goes stale overnight, which is another reason this salad is so popular in Italy – why discard stale bread if you can make something with it?
Early panzanella recipes were based on onions rather than tomatoes, but modern panzanella recipes might include lemon juice, garlic, bell peppers, boiled eggs, mint, red wine, red onion, tuna, parsley, white wine, lettuce, olives, anchovies, celery, or capers, although traditional Florentine chefs prefer the classic panzanella recipe. The following cucumber tomato salad recipe is made with basil because it complements the tomatoes so well, and the classic ingredients of tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, and cucumber. Extra-virgin olive oil is best if you can afford it, and he same applies to aged balsamic vinegar.
- 4 cups chopped tomatoes
- 4 cups chopped stale crusty bread from an Italian or French loaf
- 1 peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber
- ½ finely diced red onion
- 1 bunch fresh basil, torn into little pieces
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic or wine vinegar
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- If your bread is not stale (hard and dry) then bake fresh bread cubes for about 7 minutes at 300 degrees F to dry them out.
- Do not let them toast, but just make sure they are dry and have the texture of stale bread.
- The reason for this is that fresh bread will go too mushy in the salad.
- Leave the crusts on the bread for more texture in the panzanella.
- Remove some of the liquid and seeds from the tomatoes when you chop them. The salad will still be juicy.
- Combine all the ingredients and cover the dish.
- Let the salad marinate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 12 hours.
- Do not refrigerate the salad because the tomatoes will lose their firm texture.
- Serve this cucumber tomato salad recipe at room temperature.
People who have never tried a panzanella recipe think the concept of adding bread to a salad sounds very strange, but once you taste this cucumber tomato salad recipe you are sure to fall in love with it. The bread soaks up all the lovely juices from the tomatoes and other vegetables, and it adds a beautiful texture to the salad. This salad has been around for centuries in Tuscany, so why not introduce a touch of Italy to your dinner table in the form of this juicy cucumber tomato salad recipe? It will serve six as a lunch or a light meal, or eight to ten as an appetizer.
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