Italy's Panzanella Salad uses stale bread to make it special. Try it tonight!
We Italians are a frugal bunch. Though we spend all the money we can spare on good wine, good cheese, and good bread, we make sure not a drop or crumb goes to waste. That's why one of our favorite salads is the panzanella —literally "bread salad," using loaves that are on their way to going stale. Instead of sending them to the compost bin or chicken coop, the slices of bread become easy croutons that sop up tangy dressing and complement fresh produce.
While traditional panzanella is most often found on Italian menus in the summer, when the juices from just-picked tomatoes soften the bread cubes, modern versions include a myriad of vegetables, leafy greens, and crunchy salad fixings. As long as you include cubes of crusty bread, your salad can keep the name panzanella.
This version was inspired by that country club hallmark, the Cobb salad. I've always loved the way the Cobb arrives in colorful bands of ingredients—the creamy green avocado playing against the brilliant yellow egg yolks, and crimson tomatoes with the neutral chicken to bring it all together. Here, I sub in an all-Italian lineup, tossing cubes of ciabatta with soft but sharply flavored Gorgonzola, buttery olives, and crispy prosciutto instead of bacon (so easy to make and such a decadent addition).
And in case you haven't noticed, the green, white, and red ingredients populating this main-dish panzanella salad just happen to match the colors of the Italian flag. Serve it lined up on a platter to get the full effect (or to fend off picky eaters who work around olives) or toss it together in a bowl if you're in a time crunch—trust me, it'll taste the same.
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