Thursday, 14 July 2011

Rags to Riches

Panzanella con Stracci di Piadina, Pomodori Colorati e Peperoni
Panzanella of Torn Piadina with Multicolored Tomatoes and Peppers

I stubbornly decided to make a Summer salad tonight, even though we haven't seen the sun for days now here in Frankfurt. Sometimes you need to make your won sunshine- and a great, Italian bread and tomato salad is one way to do just that! Panzanella is traditionally made from stale bread, which is toasted, mixed with chopped tomatoes and onion, drizzled with olive oil and vinegar, mixed together and allowed to soak in all of the good juices. Well, it wasn't leftover bread I decided to use, but leftover pizza dough, which I tore into little "rags" and pan-roasted, as a crispy alternative to the traditional recipe. I also added some strips of pepper and some crushed garlic into the mix... and before I knew it, the sun began shining for me all over again- even though it was already 8 in the evening!

Of course that was just figuratively speaking, but the flavor or ripe tomatoes and sun kissed sweet peppers is just so refreshing and nice!

First things first- the bread that wasn't...

Piadina is an Italian flatbread, but it is basically just a pizza or focaccia dough that is much thinner and therefore crisper. I started out wanting to bake my leftover pizza dough into a small focaccia and to make a grilled pepper sandwich. Would have been a great plan- except that the dough stretched and tore and I was left with 2 rags of limp dough. Anyone normal would have just thrown the dough away, but instead, I thought I would try tearing it into smaller pieces and pan- roast it into bread chips. Not a bad move on my part I must say!

I stretched out the dough till it was very thin and toasted it on my dry Teflon pan (as ever!) for 2-3 minutes on either side. I purposely didn't use any oil as I wanted the bread to remain a little "doughy", so that it would soak up the tomato juices and the olive oil, honey and lemon juice I wanted to use for the dressing.

Next, after removing the last piece of bread from my very hot pan, I decided to toast the pepper strips a little, just to get rid of the raw texture. In they went, with a sprinkle of cumin seeds, salt, sugar and pepper. After 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, I added the tiniest splash of water, turned off the heat and put on the lid. This allowed them to continue "steaming" slightly whilst I sliced up the tomatoes and spring onions.

I used a selection of colored tomatoes, just because they were a little prettier... but if truth be told, this really is more of a feast for the eyes than for your tongue, as any ripe tomato will taste just as good. I used spring onion rather than regular or red onion, as they are sweeter and milder and I wanted this to have a light and fruity flavor.

Time to get dressed for dinner! Well- at least it is time to get our salad dressed!

Spread the bread chips out on a plate and cover with the peppers, tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle with dried oregano, mint and thyme and season with sea salt and pepper. For a dressing I used olive oil, lemon juice and honey which I whisked together. I poured the dressing over the salad and a little olive oil onto the bread pieces. Delicious!

The great thing about this salad is, that as opposed to a regular green salad which will wilt within a few minutes of it being dressed, this will only improve given a little time for the bread to soak in the flavors of the peppers, tomatoes and dressing. So why don't you do just that and relax with your guests, whilst you bitch about the miserable weather and wish you were in Tuscany enjoying the real deal!

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