Thursday, June 24, 2010

Olive Filone Panzanella with Capers

I've seen recipes for panzanella for several summers now but could never decide if stale bread soggy with vinegar and fresh tomato juices was something I wanted to try. The soak-your-garlic-bread-in-marinara side of me wanted to go for it, but the gags-on-soggy-slimy-things side wasn't sure she wanted to waste a perfectly good loaf of bread. The huge harvest of basil in my garden this summer and my search for recipes using basil made the decision for me. The abundance of delicious fresh tomatoes the next few months make this a great summer choice too. I bought a loaf of olive filone (an olive studded loaf) and took the plunge. I was pleasantly surprised.

The bread was more dressed in the vinaigrette than soaked in it and there was something lovely about the contrast between the sweet, fresh tomatoes and basil, the saltiness of the pickled olives and capers, the buttery softness of the bread, and the crunch and heat of the red onion. On a hot day (it's supposed to get to 105' with the heat index around here today) this can't be beat with a glass of chilled white wine or a cold, light beer. Even my husband, who is very much part of the soggy-bread-is-icky camp enjoyed this. I served it with shrimp marinated in Italian dressing. And, in the interest of full disclosure, all we had on hand was Lime Bud Light, so there you go. This would also be tasty with some greens tossed in.

If you can't find olive filone (I got mine at the Harris Teeter bakery up the street), don't sweat it. Panzanella works with any crustier bread, like a baguette, especially if it's a day old or more.

Disclaimer: We ate this faster than I could get a picture, so the photo above is one off the internet, just for an example. Also, I could not tell you if this is an authentic panzanella, only that it's very tasty and the way we like to eat it. My husband's family is half-Italian and we grew up in a big Irish/Italian area with tons of Italian-immigrant restaurants and food traditions. But I have never had this at a family dinner or eaten at any restaurant that served it, so I have no point of reference but my own taste buds. But the tastebuds, they likey. Also, my four-year-old would not touch this as is but will eat all the components separately, especially if I give him a little olive oil to dip his bread in. We're trying to raise a good Italian/Irish/French/American here.

Olive Filone Panzanella with Capers
4 cups stale olive and herb filone loaf, cubed (one small loaf)
3-4 medium, vine-ripened, fresh tomatoes, quartered and cubed
1/2 cup red onions, sliced
6-7 leaves of fresh basil, chopped roughly
1 Tb minced garlic
2 Tbs capers, drained
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
olive oil
sea salt
cracked black pepper

Toss bread, tomatoes, onions, basil, garlic and capers together gently. Sprinkle with vinegar then oil, salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently until everything is lightly coated and seasoned. If you get extra vinegar/oil soup at the bottom, toss it together once more and drain off the excess. If too dry, add a little more of the vinegar 1 tsp at a time. Let sit in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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