Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad

by Joseph Erdos
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panzanella.jpgI can't imagine summer without fresh vegetables, especially corn and tomatoes. Every year I eagerly wait for them to come into season. Just think of crunchy sweet corn and lusciously juicy tomatoes. This year my tomatoes have been very late, but finally just yesterday I picked four of my special heirlooms. I was more than excited to eat them. But I had to honor them properly by using them in a way that would show off their freshness and beauty. I couldn't think of a better recipe than a much-loved and often enjoyed Italian bread salad.

Panzanella is often thought of as a leftover salad made to use up day-old bread. But in Tuscany, from where the salad originates, it is considered a summer specialty and not simply a leftover strategy. Typically the bread used in panzanella is hearty Tuscan bread, which is traditionally made without salt. Dry bread is moistened in water and then mixed with the typical ingredeints of tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, olive oil, and vinegar. It makes for a lively appetizer or side dish. But I make this panzanella a bit differently.

I put a spin on tradition and grill the bread, leaving out the step of moistening it with water. I also leave out onions. And for an extra summery touch, I add fresh, raw corn for crunch and sweetness. this bread salad wouldn't be complete without the perfume and anise-like favor of basil. I use Greek basil, not because it's Greek, but because the leave are tiny and look so elegant scattered over the finished salad. It's a very refreshing salad perfect as a starter to any summer afternoon. 


Panzanella Salad with Summer Corn and Heirloom Tomatoes

2 small and 2 medium to large heirloom tomatoes
2 slices French country bread
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon olive oil, for brushing bread
1/3 cup fresh corn kernels, sliced from the cob
1/4 cup Greek basil leaves or torn Italian basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Slice larger tomatoes thin and cut small tomatoes into eighths. Arrange on a platter.

Heat a grill pan set over high heat. Rub bread slices with garlic clove and brush or drizzle with olive oil on both sides. Grill until charred with grill lines, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Tear bread into chunks.

Scatter torn bread, corn kernels, and basil over plate. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 to 3 appetizer servings.


Joseph Erdos is a New York–based writer and editor, but above all a gastronomer and oenophile. He shares his passion for food on his blog, Gastronomer's Guide , which features unique recipes and restaurant reviews among many other musings on the all-encompassing topic of food.  

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