Roasted red pepper panzanella

Roasted red pepper panzanella

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If you’re going to go the the effort of baking your own bread, it seems a shame to throw away any stale chunks that might be left over after a couple of days. You could make breadcrumbs to coat a couple of chicken or veal escallops, or to pad out a batch of meatballs. Or, you could make a classic Italian panzanella salad.

The panzanella most of us know is made up of familiar components; stale crusty bread, ripe summer tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar.

Panzanella first appears in the 16th century in the writings of Florentine poet Bronzino. Bronzino describes a salad of bread, cucumber, basil, rocket, onions and vinegar, as tomatoes had yet to appear in the everyday Italian kitchen.

So, it is not too much of a stretch from tradition to switch out familiar tomatoes (especially in the Spring just before they reach their prime) with tart slivers of roasted red pepper (from a jar, this is supposed to be a last minute supper, after all). Use what you enjoy and have to hand. I keep to tradition with slivers of red onion (soaked in cold water to remove their bite) and fresh basil. I up the umami factor with the addition of small, plump nonpareil capers.

1
Peel and thinly slice the red onion. Set the slices aside in a small dish of cold water
2
Tear the chunks of stale bread into small, manageable, bite-sized pieces and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the capers
3
Peel and deseed the cucumber and cut it into thick slices. Tear the basil and add it to the bowl along with the cucumber pieces. Thinly slice the peppers and add them to the mixture, too
4
Drain the onions and pat the slices dry on a piece of kitchen towel. Add them to the bowl, followed by the red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and the preserving liquid from the jar of peppers
5
Season well with freshly ground salt and pepper and toss until everything is combined. Leave so the bread soaks up the juices for 10–20 minutes before serving
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