(Tuscan bread salad)
Stale bread salad doesn’t exactly sound like the enticing, light summer meal that panzanella proves itself to be. Originating in the sunny province of Tuscany, but just as popular throughout the whole of Italy, panzanella’s humble beginnings most likely stem from peasant roots. Dating back to the 14th century, when bread was prepared in limited quantities in communal ovens, panzanella became a creative repurposing of stale bread to help stretch meals throughout the week.
A fan favorite in the summer, this colorful dish is the perfect way to claim you ate salad while still getting to primarily pig out on carbs. The classic panzanella tosses chunks of crusty day-old bread along with torn basil, chopped tomatoes and onions. All the ingredients are then dressed in a bright vinaigrette of olive oil and vinegar, and finished off with an occasional sprinkle of salt and pepper. Though traditionalists frown upon any extra additions, other famous mix-ins include cucumber, mint, lemon juice, garlic, and even pungent capers.
To celebrate the start of a new season, I chose to try out a decidedly autumnal take on the dish. Nixing tomatoes and onions, this plate of panzanella boasts sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and pumpkin seeds swimming in a maple-balsamic glaze. As I made my way through the dish under the shelter of a patio umbrella on an extremely sunny afternoon, I couldn’t help but order a summery sangria to wash the bread down, and felt as though I had been transported back to the peak of May.