Whether it’s the roll left uneaten from lunch or the end of a baguette that we just didn’t quite get to, whenever I find myself with stale bread scraps I get a little excited—it’s panzanella time. This salad pairs rich bites of bread against fresh veggies and can be adapted to whatever you have on hand. All you need to do is toast the bread with a bit of olive oil, round up some salad veggies (I nearly always use tomatoes because their juices interact magically with the bread), and toss with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. The panzanella pictured above came from a nearly stale baguette; the one pictured below resulted from a bit of leftover homemade bread, and the uneaten roll from a Panera lunch. Bread salad nirvana.
Here are some basic guidelines:
Bread that’s either stale or on its way to being stale (but not moldy; bread with mold anywhere on it should be thrown away). I’ve found that heartier breads work best, but give it a shot with what you have and see what you think!
Tomato. I think this is the most important vegetable to include since its juices will be deliciously absorbed by the bread.
Other salad veggies, i.e. red or yellow peppers, avocado, cucumber
Onion of some kind. Finely diced red onion or chopped green onion have worked well for us, but if you don’t have onion, then cilantro or parsley would have similar flavor kicking powers.
Fresh green herb of some kind. We often use parsley or cilantro. But if you have onion, don’t worry about ensuring you have a fresh herb. A dash of dried herbs -- basil, oregano, etc., would still be great.
Vinegar. I tend to use red wine or balsamic, depending on what I’m in the mood for.
Salt and pepper to taste.
A word on ratios -- You’ll notice I’m not giving specific quantities on any of these items. That will be determined by whatever you have on hand and your own judgment. I’ve found that a little bit of bread can go a long way.
1. Cut the bread into bite size cubes. Toss them with some olive oil; then pop them in a toaster oven. They don't need to turn hard like croutons; this step just helps to freshen them up.
2. Dice the veggies, onions and herbs into whatever size you like your salad ingredients to be.
3. Toss everything together with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. Sample and refine the ratios of everything until you get to a combination that you like.
It's panzanella time!