Today every chef has his or her own rendition of panzanella. The idea is to useleftover bread to soak up the delicious juices of seasonal summer tomatoes. We finish our sum- mer panzanella salad with a traditional Italian cheese, such as thin slices of Grana Padano,freshslicesofricottasalataormozzarella,orevenaspoonfulofburrata,which hasbecomeapopularchoiceoverthelastfewyears.Ifyouuseavarietyofdifferentheir- loomtomatoes,thesaladbecomesacolorfulsighttobehold.Itisperfectasanappetizer or as a side with grilled fish ormeat.
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, preferably a mix of heirloom, cored, seeded, and cut into chunks (about 4 cups)
1 cup chopped redonion
2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2cupfreshbasilleaves,coarselyshredded, a few whole leavesreserved
One 3-ounce piece ricotta salata, or 1 small ball fresh mozzarella or burrata (optional)
Toss the bread, tomatoes, onion, and cucumbers in a large bowl until well mixed. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the salad, and toss to mix thoroughly.Seasonwith1/2teaspoonsaltandseveral grinds of black pepper. Let sit until the dressing moistens the bread, about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how dry the bread was. If the bread isn’t soaked after 30 minutes, you can drizzle it with a few tablespoons of water and toss again.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with the basil, and, if using, shave the ricotta salata over the saladwithavegetablepeeler.Seasonagainwithsalt and pepper, toss gently, and serve. A sprig of basil placed in the center of the bowl makes for a great presentation.