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.
- 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.