My favorite summer dish of all time has got to be Panzanella. Just thinking about it gets me hungry. Thinking about Panzanella makes me want to go out, buy all the ingredients and cook right now! I’ll make it any time of the year (in Los Angeles summer dishes work year round) but it’s especially great in the summer. It involves so many of my favorite ingredients and cooking techniques, and in the end is simple, and is one of those dishes someone ‘got right’ a long time ago. Who ever it was, really hit a home run.
Panzanella is a Tuscan bread salad. For my version, I start with the basics (bread, cucumber, tomato), and then take some liberties. Please note, the bread soaks up the flavors from everything else in the salad (tomatoes, beans, lemon juice, olive oil, etc) and can quickly become soggy if left to sit. To avoid this, either serve and consume right away, or hold the bread separate and add just before the point of consumption.
The salad is incredible. It really is. It’s everything good about grilling, summer food, great natural flavors and true Tuscan/Italian cuisine in one dish. I have never made this for someone didn’t love it in the end.
Prep time: 1/2 hour
cooking time: 1/2 hour
Makes 6 servings
2 lb skirt steak
1/4 cup cumin/corriander spice run (see previous post)
2 organic eggs, hard boiled, peeled and sliced
4 red radishes, sliced thin
2 stalks celery, med dice
2 carrots, med dice
2 avocados, cubed
1 bunch Italian basil, thin julienne
1 roasted pepper (canned is fine) sliced thin
1/2 red onion, thin cut
2 small vine ripe tomatoes, diced
4 strips apple smoked bacon, crisp and crumbled
1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/2 loaf Tuscan or Ciabatta bread, 1 day old
good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, juiced, reserving 1/2 lemon
1 english cucumber, thin sliced
1 head romaine lettuce, cut into 1 in pieces
1 can white beans (navy or rice beans are perfect)
Bring a grill to high heat and make sure the grates are clean and well oiled. Liberally rub the steak with the spice mix, salt and pepper and grill until mid rare. Let rest until room temp.
Sliced the bread into 3/4 in slices and lightly coat with olive oil. Grill on both sides until golden brown and let cool. Once cool, cut into cubes.
In a large mixing bowl, add the celery, onion, carrot, radish, tomatoes, lettuce, beans, basil, roasted pepper, cucumber, lemon juice and a small amount of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss everything to evenly coat.
Add the cubed bread and again toss lightly. Place in the bottom of a serving bowl.
Slice the steak thinly AGAINST the grain. Garnish the salad with the egg, bacon, avocado, sliced steak and gorgonzola cheese. Squeeze the reserved 1/2 lemon over the salad, drizzle a little more oil on top and finish with some cracked pepper.
Serve right away.