In Tuscany, bread salad has been a crafty use of leftover bread for generations. In the last twenty years, panzanella has become very hip in retro-gastronomic nostalgia, ruling the menus in trattorie in the Boot and in the States. The trick is the super-tangy vinegar that dresses this whole madness so that the crunchy-crisp vegetables can really sing. And of course left-over bread (a day or two old) used to soak up all the vinegary deliciousness!!
Serves 6 to 8 people
1 pound day-old focaccia, with crust, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
2 overripe large heirloom tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 garden cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch half-moons
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves
Combine the bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion in a large serving bowl.
Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the salad, stirring or tossing to mix well. Season well with salt and pepper and toss again.
Just before serving, tear the basil leaves and scatter them over the salad, then toss again. The salad can be dressed up to 2 hours in advance and set aside at room temperature.