Panzanella Party!

8 Mar

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Every tomato season I’ve gotta have Panzanella at least a couple of times.

It’s an amazing dish filled with the tastes of summer: tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and colours, basil and my non-traditional extra addition, stunning local Buffalo Mozzarella from Shaw River.

Originally a peasant dish it’s typically a great way to use up yesterdays stale bread to soak up some of the stunning juices from beautifully vine rippened tomatoes.

So, here it is, my Panzanella! It’s a modified version of Jamie Olivers’ from his Jamie’s Italy Cook Book. Best shared with great friends and a bottle or two of Filthy Good Vino.

The ingredients (Serves 6-8):

  • 1.3 kg of the freshest, yummiest, ripest, juiciest tommies you can get your hands on.
  • 3 capsicums – whatever colours you prefer.
  • A celery heart
  • A fennel bulb
  • A handful of salted capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 a spanish onion (go easy on this, it can overpower)
  • 12 anchovie fillets
  • 10 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt & Pepper
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • A couple of Mozzarella balls, go for Shaw River’s version from Victoria if you’re in OZ, it’s delicious.
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Chargrill you capsicums on the barbie, under the grill or over a direct flame on the stove. When they’re good and black, place them in a bowl and cover with cling film to sweat the skins off.

Wash and drain your tommies. Cut them up roughly, seasoning lightly, but, evenly with salt as you go and place them in a strainer over a bowl. The juices that run out will for the base of your dressing. Chuck the anchovies and capers into the juice.

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Rip your loaf of stale bread up by hand into 3-4cm chunks, Don’t cut it, the textures better when it’s ripped up I’ve used a ciabatta this time. If it’s not stale, wack it in the oven at 50 degrees to dry it out a bit. This will help the bread retain a bit of body in the salad.

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As finely as is humanly possible, without cutting the tips off your fingers, slice half the Spanish onion, the fennel bulb and celery heart. You can rinse and drain the Spanish onion to remove a bit of kick from it.

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Peel the burnt skin from the capsicum, rip out the core, clean away the seeds and slice the capsicum into strips. Resist the temptation to rinse the capsicum, you’ll just wash away flavour. Chuck it in the bowl with the onion, celery and fennel.

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Onto the dressing – give the tommies in the strainer a gentle squish to get a little more tomato juice goodness into the bowl. Put your tommies aside then add a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar and 10 tablespoons of olive oil to the tomato juice, anchovies and capers. Grate about half the garlic clove in. Give it a wisk, taste and season with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the garlic if you think it needs it. The dressing should taste a little zingy on the vinegar front and well seasoned, the rest of the salad and bread will break it back, so it should be a little over the top.

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Time to assemble. Mix the tommies, other veg and bread in a mega bowl. You can hold back a little of the onion if you’re worried about it being a bit OTT.  Pour the dressing evenly over the salad and get your hands dirty tossing it.  It’s the only way to do the job well. This salad needs to be rested for 15 mins to allow the bread to soak up the juices.  Grab yourself a big handful of  fresh basil, chop it roughly and mix through the salad.

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Last thing, drain the water from the Mozza balls, slice and serve on the side.

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The only way to serve the salad is in a mega bowl in the middle of the table. It’s a dish to share.

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TOP TIP: Suck back a bottle of Filthy Good Vino with this like a Riesling.  I shared a 1996 Marc Bredif Vouvray from the Loire Valley made from Chenin Blanc with some great old friends. Yumminess factor was high, very high!

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