For a No-Waste-harping, Italian-food-obsessing, Bestover-loving-gal, discovering the secrets of Panzanella were certainly among the best things to happen to me while in Italy (hey don't judge, some people get excited about tech, I get excited about new ways to upcycle foods. To each their own...).
While you can freeze fresh loaves for toasting later down the line, it's never quite the same as a fresh one. Only thing is, with the purchase of fresh bread comes inextricably the abundance of stale bread, especially if you're living on your own. Thus, why Panzanella is the best discovery, ever. And why you have to know about it and make it now.
Having learnt this from the beautiful Italians on whose farm I WWOOF-ed, I learnt that not only is this one of the best Bestover foundations to have under your belt, but it is also infinitely variable. Cue leftovers, random pantry items and last night's sides. What I'd love for you to take from this recipe is essentially the basis for a Panzanella, ie. how to treat and transform your stale bread. After that? It's a blank canvas, yours for the painting.
Stale Bread Panzanella
nibs etc. original recipe. serves 2-3 (main) / 3-4 (side)
Stale Bread (as much as you have or want)
1 1/2 cups Ambient Water
1/2 cup Red/White Wine Vinegar
4 Large (6 Small) Cherry Tomatoes
1 tsp (heaped) Capers
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (good quality)
Handful of Fresh Parsley + Basil (dried will do should you not have fresh)
Greens: Arugula, Celery Leaves, Endive, Lambs Lettuce
Veggies: Cucumber, Zucchini, Artichoke, Asparagus
Protein: Beans, Nuts, Bacon/Proscuitto, Salumi, Tuna,
Cheese: Pecorino, Ricotta Salata, Scamorza, Feta, Gruyère
Roughly chop your stale bread into even (ish) sized golf-ball sized chunks, and lay flat in a baking dish. Over which, pour the water and vinegar, making sure every piece has been coated and liquid covers the base of your dish by at least 1 cm. Let stand for 2 hours (note the staler the bread, the more time, and potentially liquid, it will need, and vice versa).
Once your bread has soaked (and potentially absorbed all the liquid), using your hands, squeeze your now soft bread so as to remove as much liquid as possible, then crumble using your hands into the centre of your serving dish.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, into which gently place your eggs, turning down the heat to a simmer, and boil (soft 4-5min, medium 6-7min, hard 8-9min) to taste. Let stand in cold water before peeling, and set aside.
Now prep all your other add-ins: dice your tomatoes, halve and thinly slice your shallot, roughly chop your capers and olives/slice gherkins, wash and dry your greens, and chop up your veggies, protein and cheese so that everything is roughly the same size (which will make for an easier to eat salad and nicer mouth feel. Yes I just said mouth feel).
If we're looking to score some presentation points, arrange all your different ingredients into segments in a circle around the central pile of bread (as photographed). Top and centre, place your peeled, halved (lengthwise) boiled eggs.
Season generously with salt, pepper, roughly chopped fresh herbs (1 tsp of each if using dry), and a healthy glug of your best Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Serve: divide eggs, toss and devour.
As a main, for lunch.
As a side to a fish/meat dish.
With whatever beautiful leftovers you find in your fridge and pantry.