I really love the concept of a bread salad, don’t you? I mean, I can certainly appreciate the value of a gluten-free meal as much as the next health conscious person. But every now and again, let’s get down to it and eat a big bowl of bread.
I take the train into Manhattan twice a week for work. If I have five minutes to kill before my train home, I stop into Grand Central Market and gawk at all the unbelievable food. (For real: last year at Thanksgiving there was a $500 life-size chocolate turkey.)
Often, I’ll pick up a loaf of artisanal bread from one of the bakeries. It’s always enormous—way more bread than my little family can eat in a day or two—but I can’t resist the crackly crust and chewy, still-warm-from-the-oven interior. You just can’t get bread like that at our local Stop & Shop.
Panzanella is my favorite way to use up any leftovers that are too stale to eat, but too good to throw out. The classic version is made with tomatoes, but I decided to mix things up with juicy, peak-of-the-season peaches. White beans add protein, and turn this into a dish substantial enough to serve as a light main course.
Reducing the red wine vinegar for the dressing may seem fussy, but it thickens it and concentrates the flavor, making a cheap variety taste much more expensive. I also whisked in some peach jam for an extra boost of summery, peachy flavor.
White Bean Peach Panzanella
For the dressing
- 1/2 cup inexpensive red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons peach jam
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
- 6 cups stale 1-inch bread cubes
- 1 can white beans 15-ounce, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 2 large or 3 small ripe peaches cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves cut into chiffonade
To make the dressing
Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the peach jam until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mustard and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
To make the salad
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Arrange the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until crisp and very dry to the touch but not yet toasted, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the white beans, onion, and peaches. Pour the dressing over and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.
I used a rustic Italian loaf, but any crusty bread will work. I think whole grain would be delicious.