Great Foods of Italy: Panzanella
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The higher temperatures of the summer season may be putting even the most experienced chefs to the test. But as we all know, preparing and eating good food is a sacred ritual for Italians, who, even on the hottest days, require a tasty dish on their tables.
Among Italy’s favorite summer foods, besides colorful salads with in-season vegetables, tomato-based recipes, cold pasta salads, prosciutto and melon, bruschetta and gelato, is panzanella.
Belonging to the tradition of ‘cucina povera’ (peasant’s cooking), panzanella is a simple dish typical of central Italy, including Tuscany, Le Marche, Umbria, Lazio and Abruzzo.
The original recipe includes stale bread, ripe firm tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, and basil, all seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. In Tuscany and Umbria, the bread is left to soak in water and then squeezed dry until it is crumbled and broken up so that it is mixed with the other ingredients; in Le Marche, the slices of stale bread are wet but not crumbled, and the other ingredients are placed on top as if it were a bruschetta.
As for many poor dishes, which in the past were prepared with what was available at the moment, there is no single codified recipe. Some variations really have to do with each chef’s inspiration, such as the use of olives or hard-boiled eggs. Other ingredients can include carrots, fennel, corn, celery, raw peppers, as well as herbs such as oregano, chives, etc., although traditionalists may disapprove.
The dish is quick to prepare, refreshing, and perfect for summer, when the vegetables used are in season; it is even advisable to let it rest for a few hours in the refrigerator before serving.
Panzanella makes for a good ‘piatto unico,’ as you may also add some protein like tuna or cheese or borlotti beans.
Le temperature elevate della stagione estiva potrebbero mettere a dura prova anche gli chef più esperti. Ma, come tutti sappiamo, preparare e mangiare del buon cibo è un rito sacro per gli italiani, che, anche nelle giornate più calde, desiderano un piatto gustoso sulle loro tavole.
Tra i cibi estivi preferiti in Italia, oltre a colorate insalate con verdure di stagione, ricette a base di pomodoro, insalate di pasta fredda, prosciutto e melone, bruschette e gelato, c'è la panzanella
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