Dispatches From Whitcomb Street

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favorite panzanella

Here’s my favorite summer panzanella—it’s almost nothing more than good bread and good tomatoes set off with a little grill char. It’s so dead simple. It absolutely makes the most of excellent summer produce. It goes with everything. But I could eat a bathtub full of it by itself.

Collect equal weights of good, very ripe paste or grape tomatoes (we’re using Juliets from our garden) and day-old staleish rustic bread. You want an open-crumbed, rustic boule for this—not a real sourdough, that’s too intense, but an old-school long-fermented ancienne style loaf is perfect. Or you can use a hearty Italian bread, or even a not-too-delicate baguette in a pinch.

Thread the tomatoes onto double skewers (to prevent twisting on the grill) and cut the bread into long slices about 3/4” thick. Stingily trim off off any especially gnarly crust bits. Hit everything with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Grill the tomatoes and toast the bread over a hot-hot-hot grill (hint: this is perfect to do once you’ve seared off a main and moved it over to the indirect heat side). You just need the tomatoes to blister on both sides and begin to burst—pull them as soon as you hear tomato juices start to hit the coals. This salad becomes a lot less interesting the minute anything burns, so try to stay away from that.

Rub the bread with a cut garlic clove and then cube it into fat croutons. Cut or smash the tomatoes, depending on their size and add them to the bread.

Add a handful of parsley and a couple slivered scallions and toss. Taste; correct for salt, pepper, oil, and acid (add a little red wine vinegar if you need it). Keep warm.

Just before serving, stir in a handful of basil.

Ideas: Dress this salad up with Parm—or with a minced anchovy. Use mint instead of basil. Or use thyme and add some grilled eggplant and feta. Toss the whole thing through a head of endive. Or top with a poached egg and eat for lunch. Or…

  1. whitcombstreet posted this
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