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Italian Tomato and Bread Salad

This classic Tuscan salad is known as panzanella

If we had to name the top 10 dishes requested by our families, this salad would be high on the list. It’s our version of the classic Tuscan salad known as panzanella, with some celery thrown in for a bit of crunch and lemon zest and mint for a refreshing kick.

It’s common to moisten the bread with water before adding it to the salad, but depending on how stale the bread is and how juicy the tomatoes are, sometimes it’s not necessary. So we hold off, mixing the bread with the rest of the ingredients first. Whether or not you add water, be generous with the salt — the tomatoes and bread soak it right up.

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Notes

If you don’t have any stale bread, you can "cheat" and bake the cubes in a 250-degree oven, stirring once or twice, until dry but not browned, about 25 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Pound tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved
  • 3 celery stalks, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 Cup good olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Cups 3/4-inch cubed stale, crusty French or Italian*
  • Handful of basil, torn, for garnish
  • Small handful of mint leaves, torn, for garnish

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes and their juices, celery, onions, garlic, lemon zest, oil, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, then toss together. Add the bread, basil, and mint and gently toss together.

If the bread is moistened through and there’s a small amount of liquid pooling at the bottom of the bowl, no water is needed (see note above). If the salad looks dry, sprinkle some water over the top, gently toss, and repeat if needed. Check the seasonings. The salad is best served within a few hours, before the bread gets too soggy.