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Making Panzanella With Purslane!

August 2, 2011

Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, says that when he was a child, if a piece of bread fell on the floor his grandfather would pick it up and kiss it. I like to think about this when I make panzanella, an Italian tomato-bread salad.  It delivers the satisfaction of making good use of every bit of bread before it spoils, and it’s also an easy way to use a lot of different vegetables.

There are dozens of ways to make this delicious summertime dish, which is built upon moistened bread, drop-dead ripe tomatoes and fresh herbs. Some recipes start by soaking the bread in cold water, then squeezing it to remove a lot of the moisture and breaking it up with your fingers into little bits. I like to use day-old bread and toast it lightly.

Here’s what to do. You don’t need a recipe!

1. Buy some fresh herbs and 3 or 4 dead-ripe locally grown tomatoes.  I was thrilled to find purslane at my local farmer’s market. With succulent leaves that look something like a tiny jade plant, it contains heart-healthy omega-3’s and adds a sharp, lemony flavor and interesting texture. You may find purslane growing as a weed in your garden. That works, too.  Use small leaves whole, tear large leaves into pieces. Or use basil and tear it into bits.

2. Lightly toast some bread cubes and set them aside. The cubese shown here are from about half a loaf of olive bread.

3. Grind 2 garlic cloves and a good pinch of sea salt in a mortar and pestle to form a smooth paste. Add several tablespoons of olive oil.

4. Combine the purslane or basil, a stalk or two of chopped celery, 1 tablespoon or so of capers, and several chopped tomatoes in a bowl. (You can also add sliced olives, cucumbers, diced bell peppers, onions or scallions, and even leftover roasted vegetables from last night’s supper.) Add the garlicky olive oil and toss well.

5. Add the bread and toss again. Sprinkle the salad with red wine vinegar and toss again. Let sit at room temperature for an hour, tossing occasionally, before serving.

NOTE:  The salad will keep for up to three days in the refrigerator. I think it always tastes best the second day.  To turn it into a meal or a lunch for work, add a hard-cooked egg or some tuna.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2011 11:17 am

    Looks great, Georgia! 😉

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