Saturday in the South means one thing during the summer: the farmers’ market! I love to load up a basket of fresh herbs and produce and plan my Saturday evening supper. The bounty of fresh produce demands unique and inspiring recipes. One of my favorite recipes is panzanella. Like most “peasant food,” panzanella historically served a purpose. Day old bread that was too hard to eat was mixed with vegetables and oils and vinegars and the bread was repurposed. Today, by toasting a fresh loaf of bread we can recreate the original panzanella: tangy, sweet and crunchy!
Summer Panzanella with Heirloom Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Fresh Herbs and Simple Vinaigrette
1 minced shallot
4 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 teaspoons honey
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Mince the shallot. In a medium bowl, add the shallot and whisk in the vinegar and olive oil finishing with the honey and salt and pepper.
Tip: Running a metal spoon under cold water immediately before dipping into honey will help the honey slide easily off the spoon.
1 loaf fresh bread, such as an Italian loaf or country loaf
6 heirloom tomatoes
1 English cucumber
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons fresh thyme
4 tablespoons fresh basil
Cut the loaf of bread into cubes slightly larger than a crouton. Place cubes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper and toast at 400 degrees for 4-5 minutes. Cube tomatoes and cucumber into pieces the same size as the bread. Peel and finely chop three cloves of garlic. Finely chop fresh thyme and basil. Marinate the cucumbers and tomatoes in the vinaigrette for at least one hour. Add freshly toasted bread, toss well and serve.
Note: The panzanella can be made immediately and does not have to marinate for one hour. However, I have found the flavor is much better that way. I suggest English or Persian cucumbers as they are slightly sweeter and do not have the seeds of a traditional cucumber. I also suggest using various colors and varieties of heirloom tomatoes as it makes for a beautiful presentation.
Ashley Tarver is the founder of Copper Pot Kitchen in Alabama.