Bread Salad. Just think about that for a second. Put the word “bread” in front of the word “salad” and you get people’s attention real quick. Add some good grassy olive oil and chunks of summer tomato and they become very good listeners. Tuscans take stale, crusty bread, tear it into big craggy pieces, douse it in good olive oil, and give it the old toss-toss with juicey ripe tomatoes and whatever needs to be used.
But panzanella is more than just another tomato salad with some croutons – give everything about a half hour to mingle and mix, and this bread salad goes from “pretty good” to a bona fide can’t-stop-eating-it dinner win.
The bread needs to be the hearty artisan kind with a crunchy crust – any others will become soggy and disappointing in the salad. I lean toward rounds of chewy sourdough here. If you have time and remember, cut the bread into chunks and let it sit out overnight on a baking sheet to harden and stale – after all, panzanella has traditionally been a way to use up the hardened ends of leftover bread.
- 1LB (500g) Crusty Italian boule or Sourdough bread
- 6 slices prosciutto cut in half
- 8 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt (Diamond Krystal brand, adjust if using other brands)
- 4 oz (115g) crumbled French cheese
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 7 oz (200g) bag baby spinach or arugula or watercress
- Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh dill
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove the crusts from the bread and cut into 1½ inch (4cm)cubes = 4½ cups. Toss the bread with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Arrange in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown.
- In a sauté pan over medium heat spay a little cooking spray and place the prosciutto in a single layer and cook until lightly brown and crispy, on both sides. Drain on paper towel.
- For the dressing: In a large bowl whisk the red wine vinegar, oregano, red pepper flakes, remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil to combine, stir in the cheese. (This dressing doesn’t coming together cohesively like most dressing but that what makes each bite of the salad different from the next)
- Season the tomatoes with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and toss in the dressing so that it can soak up the flavors.
- To assemble the salad: Toss the warm croutons, prosciutto, greens, dill and the dressing with the tomatoes. Taste for season and let it soak for 10 minutes (if you can) before serving.