In Italy they have a truly wonderful thing called Aperitivo. To lure would be drinkers in their bars between 6-9pm they provide a free pre dinner buffet which they call aparitivo. The spread was amazing! All kinds of wonderful and delicious salads and things. It was more than enough to satisfy my raging appetite. You could make as many trips as you liked, and it saves you the price of dinner. One of the most divine things on that fair table was Panzanella. A delicious salad made from stale bread and tomatoes. Although stale bread is generally not one of the most appetizing foods in the world, when it has been combined with lots of fresh and tasty ingredients it is transformed into one of the most amazing things I have ever tried in my life. I would walk bare foot over hot coals to get to that buffet table again, if your in Florence be sure to stop at Rivalta. In the mean time I thought I could sate my obsession by having a go at making my own.
1 loaf of stale bread (were talking real bread here, not white sliced, ciabatta, county, crusty etc)
5-6 large tomatoes
1/2 onion (preferably red)
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2-3 cloves of garlic
9 tablespoons of olive oil (3 for the crutons, 6 for the salad)
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar if you have it)
1 tablespoon of capers (optional – sold at the foreign food mart and home-plus)
10-20 Basil leaves (use as many as your plant can muster)
A generous pinch of salt & pepper
Take your loaf of bread, preferably stale and break it into chunky bite sized pieces. Then drizzle with olive oil and garlic and fry in a pan or crunch them up in the oven until they are lightly browned. Meanwhile chop you tomatoes, cucumber,onion and peppers and put them in a bowl. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, torn basil leaves and salt and pepper. Mix this thoroughly and add in the browned chucks of break, Stir the mixture and leave for an hour for all the flavors to seep into the bread. Serve when ready, ideally with wine. Voilà a deliciously different Italian salad.