Friday, 31 August 2012

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Back in my old flat I used to get a veg box delivered every week, one of the small “gourmet” ones that Abel & Cole do so that I got more interesting veg like black salsify and purple carrots as well as onions week in and week out. I had to cancel the delivery when I moved back down South for various reasons not least of which being that my kitchen is so tiny and space at so much of a premium that I just don’t have the room I once did, sadly. 

The point being that last summer I had some lovely heritage tomatoes delivered with one of the boxes - what better way to show off the different colours and shapes than in a delicious summery salad. And what better delicious, summery salad than a panzanella! Panzanella, which is effectively a dressed bread and tomato salad has it’s home in Tuscany, specifically Florence, but is also popular throughout central Italy. 

To be completely honest I can’t really remember exactly what I did, so what follows is basically what I would do now to recreate it. I did keep it fairly simple and traditional, with the possible exception of the olives (and if you can’t get heritage tomatoes, do feel free to just use a selection of tomatoes you can get your hands on). I do remember though that it was very tasty and made a perfect al freco lunch with a nice glass of chilled rosé.

Serves 2

punnet mixed heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 shallots, finely sliced
small handful green olives, stoned and roughly chopped
2 slices stale(ish) sourdough bread, cubed
garlic oil
6 leaves lettuce, from a soft round lettuce
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
⅓ tsp dijon mustard
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C and on a rimmed baking tray toss the cubes of bread with about 4 tablespoons of garlic oil to coat evenly. Bake in the oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes, giving the tray a shake half way through to turn the bread pieces.

Remove from the oven when golden brown and set aside to cool.

In the meantime place the shallots in a small bowl of water to soak for 10-15 minutes. This will make them slightly milder while still retaining their crunch.

In a medium serving bowl, add the tomatoes and olives and season lightly with salt and pepper before adding the (very well) drained shallots.

Whisk the oil, vinegar and dijon mustard together to make a vinaigrette (I usually shake the dressing ingredients up in a small clean jar so that any leftover can be popped in the fridge).

Add the croutons to the bowl and then pour on some dressing before tossing it all together. Add a little dressing at a time to make sure that all the ingredients are coated but that it’s not swimming in it (the remaining dressing will keep for a week or so in the fridge).

Leave to sit for 15 minutes then serve atop a few nice floppy lettuce leaves.

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