Leave it to the Italians to make something from nothing …………..
……………. well sort of …………….. Panazella, the delicious salad you see pictured above and below hails originally from Florenece, in the heart of the lovely Italian region called Tuscany. In Italian households, Panazella was considered peasant-fare, simply a way to use up stale, old bread. Tomatoes grow abundantly in Tuscany and basil…………. well everyone knows that the Italians invented basil, right? So there you have it; bread, tomatoes and basil, extremely simple, ordinary ingredients, brilliantly transformed into something extraordinary! See what I mean? Something wonderful from almost nothing!
If you’ve never tried Panazella, you’re truly missing out on one of summer’s most delightful treats. It can be made any time of the year, but, with ripe, juicy summer tomatoes and lots of lovely fresh basil so abundant right now, Panazella is the perfect lunch or dinner for these hot steamy days. Here at The Café, a big bowl of Panazella is a complete meal, though it can also be a side paired with grilled, roasted or pan-seared chicken, pork, beef or seafood.
If you Google Panazella, you’ll find there are a zillion different variations of this delightful salad. I’ve come up with my own Café version, using small heirloom tomatoes and adding fresh summer corn and sliced avocado. Just like the original version, I use stale bread, but I take it a step farther and transform the bread into crisp, buttery golden croutons, adding tons of extra flavor and texture.
I’ve tried a number of different dressings or vinaigrettes for Panazella, but our favorite is one that I almost always have on hand, The Café House Dressing. It seems to be the perfect finishing touch for this wonderful summer salad. Oh, and you might just want to make a double batch of this yummy stuff, it’s fabulous and you’ll find yourself reaching for it again and again. Check out some delicious uses for it here.
2 lbs. small red and yellow tomatoes, halved, I like to use a combination of grape and yellow heirloom
¼ cup minced red onion
3 ears fresh corn, cooked in boiling water for just a minute or two, then sliced from the cob.*
2 medium avocados, halved, cored, peeled sliced crosswise into 1/4″ slices
1 recipe Garlicky Parmesan Croutons
1 recipe Café House Dressing
2 cups fresh basil leaves
shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Place all ingredients except Café House Dressing and Parmesan cheese in a large serving bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss gently to combine. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve extra dressing at the table.
*I used to steam the corn in boiling water till my friend Paula told me about this amazing, super simple method to cook and shuck corn with NO SILKS!