Posted in Recipes, Salads

Panzanella Salad ~ And a pretentious, yet honest, recipe!

Being a human with a pulse and having access to the internet, I am sure you all would have definitely heard about the honest trailers / honest reviews/ honest advertisements series going viral these days. If not, please go to Google Devta and enlighten yourselves. You can thank me later.

Panzanella or Panmolle Salad for dinner ~ Salad 15 of #100happysalads ! Tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion, romaine lettuce, olives, meaty chunks of mozzarella and freshly made bread croutons tossed in Balsamic Vinaigrette. 😍 Now it may sound fancy, but it is not. Panzanella or Panmolle Salad is a Tuscan bread and tomatoes based summer salad which was traditionally made to use up leftover crusty stale ciabatta or other breads. Here, I am using fresh croutons that I made on stove top, though I have an oven, but you are free to do whatever way you prefer. The original recipe calls for dipping the bread into water and squeezing it dry, but that's probably because the Tuscany folks used to use stale bread. Also, feel free to leave out the mozzarella for a #vegan version. I have made a balsamic vinaigrette for the dressing, which is fancy-speak for 3 parts oil to one parts balsamic vinegar whisked to form an emulsion. I threw in some mint, basil and cilantro/coriander with salt and pepper for seasoning. #srujans100happysalads

A post shared by Srujan Desai (@d.srujan) on

Okay, now that you have attained Internet Enlightenment, I will get to my main point. Well, like always, this post is about a salad. But, it is also about how intimidating it is for ordinary home cooks like you and me to go out and try out a recipe which doesn’t belong to the cuisine that you have grown up eating. Also, there are a couple of references from the perspective of an Indian and are not applicable to you if you haven’t experienced the Indian growing up scenario. Rather, you may not be able to relate to them. 

I would not waste my time with the routine exchange of absolutely unnecessary pleasantries, I will straight away, go to the point. After every sentence that I write down below, (believe me, none of them is made up, I have read it somewhere, just put in, in an another way may be) I will put an asterisk (*) to put down my view of what I think about it, well honestly. Right then, here I go!

Disclaimer: I, by no means, mean to belittle the cooking wizards, by this post of mine. It is just a light-hearted view of how intimidating the cooking can be for newbies like me. Instead, I have immense respect for all the chefs and master chefs whose websites I have stalked for hours at times and whose tv shows I have loved since I was a kid. If, by any chance, you find something offensive, please be sure that no offense was ever intended. I am myself guilty of such usage and language on more than one occasions. And finally, no gourmet ingredients were harmed or injured during the making of this salad or were their feelings hurt by using the cheaply sourced stuff bought from the nukkad wala Kiranawala! 😉

What I have recreated today is the classic Tuscan salad called Panzanella or Panmolle Salad. * (Tuscan ahaan, like you will be able to point out Tuscany on a map of Italy, if you know that Tuscany is in Italy in the first place!) 

It is a peasant salad which was invented to use up any stale, leftover ciabatta from the previous day! * (Oh really, I never knew peasants could afford that expensive mozzarella or that extra virgin olive oil or those vine-ripened, heirloom tomatoes! By the way, do you know how much does a bottle of extra virgin olive oil costs?)

It includes chunks of stale bread, along with tomatoes, freshest basil and onions that are tossed in a classic Balsamic Vinaigrette. *( You are going to call an emulsion of whisked olive oil and balsamic vinegar a vinaigrette? Does it really sound exotic, or I am the only culinary illiterate here? )

Modern Panzanella is generally made of stale bread soaked in water and squeezed dry, with other ingredients added to it like lettuce, olives, mozzarella, white wine, capers, anchovies, celery, carrots, red wine, red onion, cucumber, tuna, parsley, boiled eggs, mint, bell peppers, lemon juice, and garlic but Florentine traditionalists disapprove of them. *( If I have to buy all that, just to add to a salad, even I will disapprove! Holy crow, it is a peasant salad for heaven’s sake, not something I am going to serve to the next President of America!)

It’s an ideal make-ahead dish; the longer the mixture sits (up to 6 or so hours), the better it tastes as the brilliant flavors intermingle. * ( I barely know what I am going to cook for dinner as I walk through that door in the evening when I return from work, how can you even expect of me to make something ahead of time! )

Recipe: (Serves 6) * (barely 3 people can share a salad with a 4th to whom the bowl of salad was never passed! )

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 a cup Romaine Lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces * ( Man, I barely learnt to spot lettuce recently and my local Bhajiwala bhaiya doesn’t keep it. Tell me what should I do?? )
  • 1/2 cup vine-ripened, heirloom, cherry tomatoes, halved * ( I don’t even want to speak about these! )
  • 1 small golden onion, cubed  * ( If I use a white or a red onion, will my nose grow long like Pinnochio? )
  • 1/2 a loaf of a day-old ciabatta or a baguette, cut into chunks * ( Let me get this straight, first of all, you want to go and buy a loaf of gourmet bread, then let it get stale for a day, and then use only half of it? You have serious issues that you need to sort out! )
  • 1/2 a bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks, * ( Puhleeze! we all learnt capsicum in kindergarten, didn’t we? )
  • 2 tbsp, pitted and sliced black olives, * ( So, basically I just have to buy a jarful of stuff, which I will use only today, then shove it into the back of the bottom most shelf of my refrigerator and then never ever find any use for it for next decade, right? )
  • 1/2 cup Mozzarella di Bufala, scooped into balls or cut into meaty chunks,  * (Please transfer your next salary, and the next one too, into my account and then we will talk! )

Balsamic Vinaigrette: 

  • 1/4th cup EVOO * ( Do you really have to make it sound something awful, can’t you just call it extra virgin olive oil! Better not write this after eating a salad, the lack of carbs is making you lazy and sluggish, girl! )
  • 3 tbsp Aceto Balsamico di Modena, preferably aged *( Yeah, I am right on it! I will be able to make this salad only after I am an aged lady, thanks to the cost of your beloved Aceto Balsamico di Modena
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt / Himalayan Rock Salt, Pink Sea Salt *( I am sorry! Did I hear you right? Hearing these terms is already giving me hypertension!
  • freshly ground pepper
  • a large handful of fresh Genovese Basil leaves, finely chopped, * (Someone, please get me a copy of an Oxford Student Atlas! )

Method: 

  1. Layer a large salad bowl with the Romaine Lettuce. Arrange the heirloom tomatoes, onions and the bell peppers in layers on it. Top with the Mozzarella di Bufala and the pitted and sliced olives. Toss everything lightly making sure you don’t turn the mozzarella into a mush. Reserve the ciabatta croutons for later. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. * ( Woman, speak English! Mix all the ingredients, except the bread, in a large salad bowl and stick into the refrigerator. )
  2. Whisk Aceto Balsamico di Modena and EVOO in a small bowl with a wire whisk till it is frothy. Season with Kosher Salt/ Himalayan Rock Salt / Pink Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the fresh Genovese Basil and give it a good mix.  * ( Kill me already, my biceps are aching with all that whisking! )
  3. When you are ready to serve, pour the prepared vinaigrette all over the vegetables. Add the reserved bread croutons. Mix well with light hands. Serve with buttered crusty bread on the side. * (I give up! I will make this salad some other time! )
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