A few weeks ago, a friend asked for recommendations for summer side dishes and salads. The first thing that came to mind was panzanella. Why panzanella? Because it is an excellent way to show off gorgeous, summer tomatoes. And it’s hearty but still very fresh and light – just the sort of thing I like to eat on a hot day. I had panzanella on the brain for the entire week that followed. Something had to be done.
If you ask me, the key to a good panzanella is great bread. And if you ask me where to get great bread in these parts, I would have to say Tartine.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I love me some Tartine. One of my favorite things to do after work is hit the bakery and pick up a loaf of bread right as it comes out of the oven. And since I wanted panzanella, I popped in on my way home one evening and picked up one of their famous country loaves (and a slice of coconut passion fruit Bavarian).
There is nothing like fresh Tartine bread, still warm from the oven. The aroma will fill your car and you will be forced to savagely break into the crusty loaf with your bare hands as you make your way down I-80 because the 25 minute drive home is just too long. It happens every time.
Luckily, for all of us, the Tartine Bread book was released into the universe last year. Along with recipes and techniques for making their bread at home, it features a chapter devoted to dishes that give day old bread a second life, including this tomato panzanella.
If you like bread and you like salad, this is a perfect union of the two. Imagine really fantastic homemade croutons after they’ve absorbed the vinaigrette and tomato drippings at the bottom of a salad dish. It’s the best part of the salad, right? Now imagine a big bowl of those croutons, tossed with heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumber, and basil. It cannot be beat. No joke.
adapted from Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and Eric Wolfinger
serves 4 to 6
red wine vinegar
2 pounds baby artichokes
1 cup + 6 tablespoons olive oil
4 thick slices day old rustic, country style bread, torn into large pieces
4 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese
4 ripe heirloom tomatoes
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 English cucumber
1 bunch basil, stems removed
Preheat oven to 400°F. Fill a large bowl with water and add a generous splash of vinegar. Remove the tough outer leaves from each artichoke until you reach the tender leaves surrounding the heart. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and place the halves in the water.
Drain the artichokes, place in a bowl, and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Arrange the artichoke halves cut-side down in a large ovenproof skillet. In the same bowl, toss the bread pieces with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. spread the bread over the artichokes, grate Parmesan all over, and put the pan in the oven. Roast until the artichokes are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and the bread is a deep golden brown, 15-25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut each tomato in half crosswise. Holding each half over a small bowl, gently squeeze it (as if juicing an orange) to release the seeds. Reserve the tomatoes. Add the onion, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and salt to the seeds, and stir to combine. Stir in the olive oil.
Cut the reserved tomato halves into 1-inch chunks. Peel the cucmber. using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, shave the cucumber into thin strips.
In a serving bowl, combine the artichokes, bread, tomatoes, cucumber, and basil. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.