Meet panzanella, the summer salad I will eat until it comes out of my ears:
Tomatoes, mozzarella, toasted bread and basil, soaked in balsamic, garlic and olive oil. That’s your ingredient list. You’ll also need salt and pepper.
There are a lot of ways to make panzanella, and a lot of recipes out there that call for anchovies and cucumbers and such, but I like this simple version the best. Don’t get out your measuring cups and spoons and rulers. Just eyeball the ingredients. The short version of this recipe is to toss all of the ingredients above in a bowl.
Here’s the longer version:
Chop up 2 or so cloves of garlic. Chop it really fine because no one likes to bite into a chunk of raw garlic. Or just send the cloves through a little garlic press.
Put the garlic in a big bowl and add some balsamic vinegar, about 1/4 cup. If you’re eyeing it, the garlic should be standing in a nice pool of vinegar, but not floating in it. Add a good amount of salt and black pepper. Stir and let the mixture hang out in the bowl while you’re prepping the other ingredients.
Cut a loaf of crusty bread into 1-inch cubes and toast them in the oven. Low broil. Keep an eye on these guys because bread burns fast in an oven. Let them cool.
Chop up a bunch of tomatoes and add them to the balsamic/garlic mix. I used a mix of red and yellow toms. Six medium tomatoes is the right amount if you’re entertaining a small group. They have to be “good” tomatoes, as my dear friend Ina Garten would say — which I know sounds completely ridiculous because no one wants to eat bad or even so-so tomatoes. But they’re the star of the salad and, really, they just have to taste amazing. Try to get them at a farmer’s market.
Cut up fresh mozzarella balls, the kind that come floating in milky water. I like using the small, bite-size balls called bocconcini and cutting those in half. Add them to the bowl.
Chop some fresh basil and add that to the bowl.
Drizzle in some olive oil, maybe a couple tablespoons?
Now, everything but the bread cubes should be in the bowl. Mix it all together. Let it hang out on the counter for a bit, or stick it in the fridge if you won’t be eating for a few hours. Add the bread cubes a few minutes before serving, that way they don’t get too soggy.