Those Italians – they cannot bare staying away from their carbs, can they? Well, I’m glad! Because aside from my other favourite Italian carbs, which is pasta; bread is the other one I can’t live without. And somehow, the Italians have a way with both!
One day, panzanella, – an Italian bread salad thought to have originated from Florence – just kept jumping out at me. In Heidi Swanson’s “Super Natural Everyday Cookbook,” in “The Silver Spoon” cookbook, in Giada de Laurentiis’ Food Network show, in my old photos of Florence where I feasted on them one long, hot summer…
After these mysterious hints were left all over for me like crumbs (and I always pick up the crumbs), I decided it was time! Time to fire up the barbecue and grill some crusty old bread that will eventually end up in a big crouton salad!
Lo and behold, that salad turned out to be real fine! Sure, it’s just a humble bread salad, but let me tell you, each crunchy-chewy-sweet-and-sour bite sent me spinning faster like a whirling Dervish. Why don’t I make this more often?
True, by adding sunflower seeds, edible flowers, and all sorts of frills for the vinaigrette, the Italians might curse me for changing up their traditional formula of stale bread-onions-tomatoes-oil-and-vinegar that had worked so well for centuries . I apologize for the divergence; however, I absolutely cannot apologize for how good this looks and tastes! Buon appetito!
- 1 sourdough boule, sliced thickly
- extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red onion, sliced
- 1½ cups grape tomatoes
- ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds (optional - not traditional but nice to have)
- Everyday vinaigrette* (recipe under Notes)
- a pinch or two of Maldon sea salt flakes
- a handful of edible flowers (optional - not traditional but nice to have)
- Use a day-old sourdough boule or any crusty bread or baguette and slice them across in ¾-inch thick.
- Brush the sliced bread with good-quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Preheat the grill to medium or 325 degrees F. Brush the grill with olive oil.
- When grill is hot, place the prepared bread slices, and cook until they develop a crunchy exterior, about 2 to 4 minutes per side, depending on your grill.
- Remove from heat and slice right away into small square pieces.
- Set aside on a large salad bowl.
- Meanwhile, slice a red onion lengthwise and lay it flat down the sliced side.
- Start finely cutting into thin crescents. Toss into the bowl of bread.
- Add the grape tomatoes to the bowl of bread, but if you prefer, you can also slice the tomatoes across in half.
- Toss in the (optional) raw sunflower seeds.
- Start adding your vinaigrette by the tablespoonful. Toss the salad until each bread cube is coated in the dressing, tasting and seasoning along the way. Add edible flowers, if using.