Authenticity has appeal.
Soggy bread doesn't.
Forgive me, Tuscans, for making panzanella with fresh instead of stale bread.
And for toasting it until golden and chewy instead of soaking it in water.
And for tricking it out with salami and--you betcha--avocado to make it main course material.
Forgive me, non-Tuscans, for sharing a recipe that will make all other salads in your repertoire seem like namby-pamby stand-ins.
And for making you use your oven.
And for giving you yet another reason to wish for eternal summer.
Serves 4 as a main course
- 1/2 loaf of ciabatta, cut into 1-inch squares
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- salt, divided
- freshly-ground pepper, divided
- 3 thick-cut slices of salami, cut into small cubes
- 3 ripe heirloom tomatoes, diced
- 1/3 hothouse cucumber, diced
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
- 1/2 sweet bell pepper, diced
- 1 small avocado, diced
- 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings
- a dozen leaves of basil, roughly torn
- 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss your bread cubes with 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread them into a single layer on one side of a baking sheet. On the other side, lay the cubed salami. Toast until the bread is golden brown and the salami is glistening, 10 to 15 minutes.
In a very large bowl, combine the bread, salami, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, pepper, avocado, Parmigiano, and basil.
Sprinkle fittingly with salt and pepper, and dress with the vinegar, plus the remainder of the olive oil. Fold gently to coat.
Allow the salad to sit while you pour some wine and cook up some of summer's other bumper crop to eat alongside.
Toss again before hungrily heaping a mound of this freedom of expression onto your plate.