Italian Bread Salad - FamilyEducation

Italian Bread Salad

June 27,2011

In my family it is practically the law that you make sure you have enough food for family gatherings to feed 2-3 times the people that plan to attend.  I come from a long line (on both sides of my family lineage) of hospitable folks who consider it almost a sin to not have enough food for everyone to fill full to the max and to have a bag of goodies to take for the road.

SPH and I share this food philosophy so invariably when we host folks we have leftovers.  Most leftovers keep quite well, so one of the greatest joys of hosting a big, delicious food gathering is reliving it the next day or so with the remaining morsels of yum.  

One leftover that doesn’t do so well though is bread.  There’s a reason that if you go to a bakery they sell day-old bread at half the price:  old bread’s appeal fades quickly.  But recently we’ve given an Italian spin to what to do with leftover bread, using it in a bread salad or panzenella.

Panzenella is one of those brilliant peasant dishes, the use of an otherwise less-appealing food item, day-old bread, in a way that transforms it into deliciousness.  When tossed with sauteed or grilled vegetables, a generous dressing and herbs, the day-old bread shines like a fresh baked loaf.

Italian Bread Salad

1 baguette of day-old bread, cut into bite sized pieces, about 3-4 cups
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 onion, sliced
1 zucchini, diced
½ bell pepper, sliced
1 eggplant, diced, sprinkled with a dash of salt and left in a colander to remove some liquid
¼ cup fresh basil, parsley or a combination of both

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Optional Toppings:
Sliced Olives
Sliced Proscuitto
Shredded Mozzarella

Dice the bread and place in a large bowl.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and onion, cook 2 minutes.  Add the zucchini, bell pepper and eggplant.  Saute for 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but not too mushy.

Add the vegetables to the bread and toss well.  Sprinkle herbs on top and toss.

In a jar or medium bowl, mix the lemon juice, vinegar, oil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Shake if using a jar or stir well, and pour over the salad.  Toss well and let the salad sit for at least 15 minutes before eating, as this will allow the dressing to soak a bit into the bread.

If using, add the olives, proscuitto, and/or mozzarella.

Serves 4 as a main dish.

Here’ s my vegetarian version:

And SPH’s meatier option:

Either way, an Italian peasant dish fit for royalty!  If you prince or princesses are not into vegetables, this is the perfect recipe to allow them to choose one vegetable choice.  You can alter this recipe to include a vegetable choice they will find more palatable.