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Sep 26, 2007 09:55 AM

Panzanella - ingredient ideas/how to avoid mushiness

I'm planning to make panzanella later this week, taking advantage of the last summer tomatoes from the farmers' market.

I liked the Chow recipe, but wanted to know which ingredients that others have used. I have some bell peppers I'd like to roast and add in, some corn, maybe even a can of garbanzos - too much? While I want to keep it relatively simple, I also have a lot of ingredients I want to use up.

There seemed to be some disagreement in the comments to the Chow recipe about dressing. I'm inclined towards a simply prepared red-wine vinegarette, but am open to other options. Which dressings have worked well for you and which are to be avoided?

Also, any ideas or how-to's for avoiding mushiness? I'd like to make enough for main course and have some leftovers.

Thank you!

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  1. Start with a crusty Italian bread of the highest quality (no supermarket stuff). Cut it into bite sized cubes and leave to dry on a cookie sheet overnight. (If you don't have time, you can dry the bread in a low oven.) Don't mix the bread in with the veggies until ready to serve to avoid mushiness. Personally, I like it when the bread soaks up the dressing. The only way to avoid mushiness with leftovers is to keep some of the bread separate from the veggies and dressing, and store separately. I use a dressing of lemon juice, line juice, and really good EVOO.

    I made a variation for dinner last night using leftover cornbread. I added tomatoes, red pepper, cuke, green onions, and corn cut off the cob (not cooked). Topped the whole thing with grilled shrimp. I also sometimes add black beans.

    1. I've been in love with Panzanella this summer, and never thought that I would like it because I thought it would be mushy. I've been either toasting or grilling the bread in advance, and I think this cuts down on the mushyness while still letting the bread absorb all of the flavors. I usually add corn in there, as well as peppers, but I usually just chop up the peppers and put them in there without cooking, it adds a nice crunch. I don't think I'd use the can of garbanzos, though.

      As for dressing, I generally do a simple red wine vinegarette myself, but make it a little less acidic because the juice from the tomatoes will provide some acid as well.

      ...I think I need to make panzanella for dinner tonight now.

      1. Haven't seen the CH recipe but my typical panzanella includes:
        -toasted chewy bread, added at the last minute (as per picawicca)
        -thick English cucumber slices
        -tomato wedges
        -thinly sliced red onion
        -1" diced yellow pepper if I have it on hand
        -capers in brine, drained
        -canned solid tuna, drained and broken up (makes it more of a meal)
        -chopped anchovies
        -chopped flat leaf parsley (essential in my opinion)

        The dressing I use is white wine vinegar, water, salt, pepper, a tiny bit of pureed garlic, and good olive oil.

        1. I avoid the mushiness by oiling (EVOO) grilling the bread cubes and then adding the cubes last minute.

          1. I forgot to mention that I also like to make this salad with grilled pita triangles. When I do, I put some oregano in the dressing. I also forgot to say that I put lots of fresh basil in the panzanella.