Get Fresh With Tuscan Bread Salad

Taste it at the last Brazen Kitchen cooking demo this Saturday at Farmers @ the Firehouse!

Photos by Leah Lizarondo

I went to Farmers @ Firehouse’s 10-year anniversary celebration last weekend. Torrential rain won’t keep me from paying my respects to one of my favorite markets, especially since September is Local Food Month (yes, I observe these things like religious holidays!)

Chef Bill Fuller of big Burrito was at the demo tent, and while I didn’t get a chance to taste the entire bounty, the little bites I had were worth getting drenched in the rain for.

All the cooking demos at the Firehouse fiesta are excellent, but I also love the prepared food such as My Goodies Vegan Bakery and the yummy Lebanese food. Of course, Mediterra Bakehouse has an outpost there as well, and I’ve been a loyalist since sampling their chocolate cherry loaf a couple years ago.

So it was definitely a treat when Savor Pittsburgh gave me a gift certificate for helping judge the Culinary Competition last week (I know! It’s like a treat for getting a treat!) Meryl, the sweetest woman you’ll ever met, is at the Mediterra tent weekly and describes each bread so well that you’ll want to buy all of them. The only question she couldn’t answer was mine – why can’t I ever find chocolate cherry bread around these parts?

I bought more loaves than I could possibly finish and brought some to my favorite bread baker, Leah (of the Leah Bar and Highland Park Food Co-op fame). Which, in turn, inspired me to turn the rest of the market bounty into a salad that Leah made for dinner — a delicious Panzanella or Tuscan Bread Salad.

There is no better way to enjoy these last few weeks of summer than with a hefty salad packed with tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, basil and some good crusty sourdough to sop up all the juicy goodness. Add a handful of protein-packed chickpeas for good measure and you’re definitely good to go.

This is one salad you do not want to skimp on with the ingredients. Get a loaf of delicious, fresh bread, some good extra virgin olive oil and some ripe, tasty veggies. Then break out that mandoline (or if you don’t have one, a good knife so you can slice the cukes and zukes thin) and prepare to be blown away by this amazing summer salad.

  Panzanella – Tuscan Bread Salad

Yield: Serves 4-6
Adapted from River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens.

  • About 1 lb. stale white sourdough bread or ciabatta (again, the best you can find)
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (whip out “the good bottle” for this one)
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • ½  cucumber, sliced very thinly
  • 1 zucchini, sliced very thinly
  • A cup or so of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • A handful of small capers, drained
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 5 tsp good quality white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 big bunch basil leaves
  • Roasted walnuts for sprinkling

1. Cut the bread into large cubes. Toss with half the olive oil and roast in a preheated 350 degree oven. (Roasting is optional). Toss with the onion, cucumber, zucchini, tomatoes, chickpeas, and capers in a large serving bowl.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the rest of the olive oil with the vinegar and sugar. Pour the dressing over the salad and season generously with salt and pepper. Tear the basil, add it to the bowl and toss it all together. Taste for seasoning.

3. You can serve the salad right away or let it stand at room temperature for about an hour to let the flavors blend.

Want to taste it? Join me this Saturday morning at Farmers @ Firehouse in the Strip District for the last Brazen Kitchen cooking demo of the year! And if you missed it last week, check out our trip to Wigle Whiskey!

Watch: Brazen Kitchen Short Order Short

Categories: Brazen Kitchen