part one of the dead bread trilogy
i cannot finish a loaf of bread. my freezer is an icy graveyard of half-consumed loaves of wholegrain, pan de mie, pullman, and rye, diminished batards and baguettes that look like toppled gravestones and markers. there is only so much one can do with breadcrumbs, so i have a passel of recipes i file under "dead bread".
one of my favourites is a tuscan bread salad known as panzanella. it is extremely simple to make, but completely dependent on the freshness of your ingredients for it to be successful. perversely, the bread you use for this has to be as stale as possibly without being rancid or moldy--bone dry is best.
this particular recipe is based on my favourite version of panzanella, from the quietly fantastic angeli caffé in los angeles. it is the first version i'd ever tried, and i have not been able to find another that is comparable to it in freshness, simplicity, and flavour.
cut up at least two large ripe, but firm beefsteak-type tomatoes--you will want to use the juiciest and sweetest tomatoes possible(romas aren't juicy enough and cherries are too acidic)--in a rough dice. glug a generous amount of high quality extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 cup) and a scant 1/4 cup red wine vinegar on top. add a fistful of rinsed, drained capers and leave to marinate. roughly chop 3 cups of stale bread (ciabattas or baguettes work well--anything with a lot of crust), into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes. peel a common slicing cucumber, cut in half and de-seed it by running a spoon through the middle. cut into bite-sized crescents. de-seed a large green bell pepper, cut into strips. mix the bread in with the vegetables in a large bowl, dump the tomatoes and the all the marinade on top. season generously with salt and pepper. the marinade soaks through the bread, just enough to give it chewiness. the bread and the cucumbers foil the acidity of the tomatoes and vinaigrette, and the bell peppers add a nice greeny touch.