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BLT panzanella

By Sheryl Julian
Globe Staff / June 3, 2009

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Serves 6

Many Mediterranean cultures turn stale bread into salads or soups. Panzanella is the popular Italian combination of bread cubes and vegetables. Traditional recipes let the bread and vegetables sit for several hours so the bread can absorb the juices in the bowl. If you eat the salad right away, the toasted bread cubes are still crisp. Bacon and arugula are not authentic, but taste delicious with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and red onion.

2 loaves (1 pound each) country bread, left out overnight
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
8 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup white wine vinegar, or to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil, or to taste
5 tomatoes, cut into thick strips
2 English cucumbers, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into strips
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup capers
8 ounces baby arugula, stemmed
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Let them sit at room temperature for half a day to dry out.

2. Set the oven at 375 degrees. In a bowl, toss the bread cubes with enough olive oil to coat them very lightly. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast the bread for 20 minutes, turning several times, or until golden. Set aside to cool.

3. Render the bacon in a dry skillet, turning often, until it is golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

4. In a bowl, whisk the 1/4 cup vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard, and garlic. Gradually whisk in the 1/3 cup oil.

5. In a large bowl, toss the bread with the tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onion, and capers. Add the dressing and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper, if you like. If the mixture seems dry, sprinkle the salad with more olive oil and vinegar.

6. If you like, prepare the salad up to this point. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to several hours. Otherwise proceed without letting the salad rest.

7. Just before serving, fold the bacon, arugula, and parsley into the panzanella.

Related

Food styling: Preparing rice salad

Video: Food styling

Food Editor Sheryl Julian and food stylist Lisa Falso prepare the dishes for the photographs featured at the top of this page (including rice salad, above).