Like many frugal recipes from Italian cooking, panzanella makes good use of ingredients that may be past their prime. Day old bread is toasted and tossed with a potent vinaigrette, seasonal vegetables and herbs. Tomatoes and cucumbers are traditional, but the recipe is easily adapted to whatever is on hand in any season.
½ country loaf (about 8 ounces),
4 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small shallot
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 medium tomatoes
1 large cucumber¼ cup basil, thinly sliced
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the bread into ½ inch cubes. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Spread bread cubes evenly on a half-sheet pan. Reserve the bowl. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, turning halfway through, until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the bread cubes bake, chop the shallot finely. In the reserved bowl, combine the shallot, red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. Core the tomatoes and chop into ½” size pieces. Cut the cucumber into pieces roughly the same size. Add the remaining olive oil and a pinch of black pepper to the bowl with the shallot and whisk to combine.
Add the chopped vegetables and bread to the bowl and mix well. Let sit until the bread softens. Add the basil and toss again just before serving.