Panzanella, an Italian rustic bread salad, is not only delicious—it’s an ingenious way of using up the leftover stale ends and bits of bread and those almost-but-not-quite-overripe tomatoes that otherwise would get thrown out or composted. The classic approach is to let stale bread soften in the juices and ﬂesh of ripe, plump tomatoes, and then add aromatics, other veggies (optional), vinegar, and a couple healthy glugs of the ﬁnest quality olive oil. The trick to a good panzanella is allotting enough time for the bread to soak up the tomato juices and dressing; all that ﬂavor getting sopped up into the bread is where the magic lies. My version uses grilled bread because I love the ﬂavor that the char adds. But fellow heatstroke victims need not despair—the bread takes only minutes to grill.
- Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.
- Brush oil on the grill and place slices of bread (in batches if necessary) on the grill. Cook until the bread is slightly charred and has nice grill marks on each side, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
- While still hot, rub each slice of bread all over with the garlic until a subtle garlic aroma coats the toast, then set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the ⅓ cup olive oil, vinegar, capers, sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Add the tomatoes, seeds, juices, and all to the bowl with the dressing and toss to combine.
- Let cool slightly, then tear or slice the bread into 1-inch pieces and add to the bowl with the tomatoes. Gently toss everything together so the juices and ﬂavors of the dressing begin to absorb into the crusty, charred, garlicky bread. Let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature to let the bread soften up and absorb the ﬂavors. Then add the herbs and gently toss to combine. Serve immediately or within a few hours (add the herbs just before serving).
© Eat Cool: Good Food for Hot Days by Vanessa Seder ,Rizzoli New York, 2021. Photography © Stacey Cramp.