Breakfast is universally acknowledged as one of the main meals of the day: milk, coffee, fruit juices, cookies, brioches, and maybe yoghurt, home made jam and, why not, some pizza.
This is nowadays breakfast. In the past, when my grandma was a child, it was totally different. They used to have panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) for breakfast. I love panzanella, because it’s refreshing, light and good, a summer dish… for lunch or dinner, not for breakfast!
Panzanella was summer breakfast, made with leftover bread. During the winter, they used to have polenta to start the day in a glorious way! It used to be adult people’s breakfast, grandma used to have milk instead – since they had a cow and a goat in the farm. Men who went to work in the fields at dawn made the panzanella in a lunch box and brought it with them in a basket. When breakfast time came, they used to eat the panzanella drinking some home made red wine.
Nowadays, panzanella is a refreshing first course to have during the first summer days.
Panzanella, Tuscan bread salad
- 300 g of stale Tuscan bread
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- 1 cucumber
- 1 fresh red onion
- A few leaves of fresh basil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Red wine vinegar
- Tear the bread into large pieces, put it in a large bowl and soak it with cold water. They used to make panzanella with leftover homemade baked bread: it had a very different and better flavour and took a lot of time to soak up. Nowadays 5 minutes often would do. The bread will absorb the water like a sponge.
- Slice the onion thinly and collect it on a little bowl. Soak it in cold water, to quench its sharp taste.
- Chop the tomatoes and slice thinly the cucumber.
- When the bread is soft, squeeze it removing all the excess water and crumble it with your hands into a large bowl.
- Dress the bread crumbles with the well-drained onion, the chopped tomatoes, the sliced cucumber and the fresh basil leaves, torn roughly with your hands.
- Season with salt and a few grids of black pepper, then drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Finish with the red wine vinegar to taste: it will brighten the flavour of this bread salad, so don’t be stingy with it.
- Set aside for half an hour in the fridge, then it’s ready to be eaten.