The other day, still recovering from my cold, I was reading about pane toscano (tuscan bread) and about how in the old days bread was never thrown away. Tuscan cuisine is indeed particularly renown for its bread-based recipes, like ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, and panzanella.
Wow, panzanella… I suddenly realized I have not had it in years and felt like I wanted to honor this simple dish again. But first I consulted my encyclopedia (it really is) of traditional Italian cooking (24 volumes, region by region) and in Volume 1 of tuscan cuisine I found a list of something like 15 different variations of Panzanella, each coming from a very narrow area in Tuscany, often a small village, sometimes a town.
I liked the senese (from the lovely town of Siena) version of panzanella because of its simplicity and the addition of onion.
PANZANELLA ALLA SENESE
You need: stale bread (I used my spelt sourdough), ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, onion, marine salt, olive oil, freshly ground pepper.
How to: chop the tomatoes and the basil and slice the onion very thin. Combine all in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients (except the bread). Let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile soak the sliced bread in cold water and then rinse in a kitchen towel, to drain part of the water. The bread must be wet but not mushy. Pour the tomatoes mixture over the bread.
CONSIDERATIONS: The author of the Tuscan volumes of my Italian cuisine encyclopedia is called Giovanni Righi Parenti and is an “etnogastronomo” (someone who is paid to read and write about food history) and sometimes I wish I was a professional ethno-gastronomy expert, too… it is so fun to read about the origins of dishes and then trying them out. And how interesting to find out that some dishes have remained unchanged for centuries yet can still appeal to our modern taste buds. Like this simple panzanella, which was a quick hunger fix and tasted just delicious. Easy, healthy, tasty.
This is going to YeastSpotting. Many thanks to Susan for continuing to host this event and welcome back!