This month’s Improv Cooking Challenge, hosted by Kristin of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, is tomatoes and peppers…a perfect pairing for the August which marks the arrival of ripe garden tomatoes in my neck of the woods. Surprisingly, I could not come up with one single appetizing dessert with this combination, so my thoughts went straight to the panzanella salad. Traditionally made of only rustic bread, juicy ripe tomatoes, red onions and dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil, the panzanella of today has morphed into much more complicated forms. My version includes red bell peppers, English cucumbers, and capers. It may not be the most authentic, but it is darned tasty.
Panzanella…recipe adapted from numerous sources, including Giada De Laurentis
8 ounces rustic bread like ciabatta, 2-3 days old
2 1/4 pounds ripe garden or heirloom tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks, seeds removed
1 heaping tablespoon capers
1 red bell pepper, raw or roasted and cut into strips or large dice
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small red onion, cut into very thin slices
1/2 cup basil leaves
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
To make dressing, combine vinegar and garlic. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Soak the bread in water for a couple minutes. Squeeze dry and break or cut up into a serving bowl. Top with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, capers, onions and basil.
Drizzle dressing over salad and toss. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.