Well, it’s two days until I go to Italy and the salad diaries must come to an end – as we always knew they would. I’ve really enjoyed navigating this world of tomatoes, capers, herbs, leaves, pulses (and meat!) and I really hope you have too. I also hope that I’ve demonstrated that salad doesn’t have to be boring and it is as versatile as any other genre of cooking. The initial point of this series was to get my body bikini-ready. Well, I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve been overly successful in that stated aim, but the salads along the journey have been their own reward. I finish on the Italian classic, Panzanella, in tribute to my very imminent to departure therewith.
It seems to me that the very best of Italian cuisine is always considered ‘peasant food’ amongst the countrymen themselves, and this is the ultimate in peasant chic as it’s borne from a “waste not, want not” attitude. The English make bread and butter pudding with our stale bread, the Italians make this vibrant and sunny salad. I know which I’d rather have (no slight on British cooking, but b&b pudding? Bleugh!). It’s easy and full of all the nicest Italian flavours: anchovies, massives of tomatoes, capers, great handfuls of basil, onion and lovely chunks of day-old bread which soak up all the oils and juices.
I literally threw this salad together after my visit to the Hove Champagne Festival on Saturday last. I was absolutely smashed after a few too many glasses of champagne, so the recipe will be vague and rather impromptu (and not necessarily totally faithful). But goshdarnit, it tasted good. So good, in fact, that I made it twice again in the days following.
A fitting and delicious end to my salad expedition, and plus I found the perfect solution to my bikini traumas: this swimming costume. Problem solved.
for 3 ladies who have drunken a whole lot of champers
- half a loaf of bread (at least 1 day old), crusts removed and torn into pieces (nb. I used mediterranean loaf)
- 1 red pepper
- 1 orange pepper
- a good handfuls of ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
- a good handful of ripe medium tomatoes, cut into segments
- good quality anchovy fillets in oil (Spanish ones are good)
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- a few sticks of celery (hearts only)
- a large handful of fresh basil leaves
- a clove of garlic, finely sliced
- red wine vinegar
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and pepper
First of all chargrill your peppers (see instructions here) and when they are cooled and skinned, chop them up and put them aside. Meanwhile put your torn up bits of bread on a tray and leave them somewhere more to dry out a little more while you prepare your other ingredients.
Put your tomatoes in a colander and season them lightly to draw the juiced out. Put the colander into the mixing bowl to catch all the juices. Now, as you prepare each ingredient just pop it into the bowl beneath the tomatoes. Add the dried up bread and the anchovy fillets, capers and red onions.
Slice the white and palest green parts of the celery hearts as finely as possible and add to the bowl along with the sliced peppers.
Next, tear up the basil and add to the bowl along with the sliced garlic.
Give the tomatoes a bit of a squeeze in the colander to get as much of the juices out as possible and then in they go. Season well.
Give the salad a real good toss with your hands. Then drizzle in around 3 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil and a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar. Check the seasoning and the dressing and adjust to taste.
Serve along with a glass of wine and some silly tipsy conversation.