Summer (and bread) in a bowl
I promised some recess recipes for you all, and I finally have one: Cornzanella, a corn, tomato, and bread salad, the sort of thing that only makes sense in summer, when corn and tomatoes are at their peak. (Here in New England, with all the rain, we are only just getting nice tomatoes in. Fingers crossed they last long enough to eat salads like this well into September.)
This is obviously a corny variation on panzanella, the classic tomato-bread salad from Tuscany. This is the sort of thing that barely needs a recipe, but it is useful to have a template to use as a starting point, so I’ll give you mine. Here are all of my tips for perfect panzanella:
Use whatever tomatoes you like, as long as they are ripe, juicy, and flavorful.
To prevent the salad from being watery, it’s best to salt the tomato pieces for awhile to let them drain; rather than tossing those flavorful juices, I use them as the base of the dressing.
Despite its reputation as a way to make the most of stale, crusty bread, the best bread for panzanella should have at least some life in it still. Freshly baked is wonderful here, or at least bread that is no more than day-old.
Pre-toasting the bread, coated with olive oil, gives the bread a little welcome crunch, even after it has soaked up the dressing. I find the simplest way to do this is to cut the bread into toast slabs, brush the cut faces of the bread with oil, then toast it in a toaster oven or an oven, just until lightly-browned. Once it is cooled, you can cut the slabs into cubes.
As for the corn, this is a great use for leftover precooked ears (there are just two of us here, but we always seem make extra, not wanting to miss out on summer’s bounty). You can cook the corn however you like; grilling it will add a little extra to the salad, but boiled is great here too.
The dressing should be pretty punchy, since it gets muted significantly by the bread.
Taste the salad just before adding the cheese, and feel free to hit it with extra vinegar, oil, and pepper just before serving. It should be moist throughout (though not wet), and well-seasoned. (The cheese is salty, so go easy with any extra salt.)
Cheese is not traditional in panzanella, but I like it, and it pairs especially well with the sweet corn.
Basil is the herb of choice for a traditional panzanella, but parsley, cilantro, or a combination would be lovely too.
Full recipe after the fold, more recipes to come soon.