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.
- 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
- 6 cups stale 1-inch bread cubes
- 1 (15-ounce) can white beans, 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
- 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.
- 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.