Growing up in southern California, surrounded by an abundance of year round produce, I didn’t learn the importance of eating seasonally until I started getting more passionate about cooking. While you can find a plethora of produce staples in any month, they won’t necessarily taste good. Over the years, we have normalized eating bland and watery tomatoes from late fall through spring, so it’s no surprise to hear that some people just don’t like them that much.
Now, I await the start of summer eagerly, holding off on my cravings until I know i can get the real deal: the umami-packed and obscenely plump tomatoes of my dreams. When the tomatoes are this good, you have the celebrate them, and this stone fruit panzanella is the perfect way to pay respect. Crusty bread soaks up a tangy vinaigrette made from the tomato juices, sherry vinegar, and shallots. Best of all, crisp nectarines or peaches add an extra juicy twist to this Italian classic.
A traditional tuscan salad, panzanella features stale bread soaked in tomato vinaigrette and accompanied by fresh tomatoes and onions. For this recipe, fresh bread is perfectly adequate, as we crisp it up first in the oven.
If I have’t made it abundantly clear yet, this is a recipe reserved for when tomatoes are at their peak in summer and early fall. Lots of tomatoes types and sizes can work, just opt for what you know will be the most flavorful. Combine cherry and full size tomatoes for textural contrast, or add in some yellow tomatoes for a splash of color. Farmers markets are your friend here! If it’s at the farmers market, that usually means it’s at it’s peak flavor-wise.
I’ve opted for these smaller tomatoes, as they have more concentrated flavor.
Salt your tomatoes first
Salting the tomatoes in advance will cause the tomatoes to release more of their liquid. Packed with umami, this juice adds depth and tang to the vinaigrette.
Stone Fruit PanzanellaCourse: Salads, SidesCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy
Crusty bread soaks up a tangy vinaigrette made from the tomato juices, sherry vinegar, and shallots. Best of all, crisp nectarines or peaches add an extra juicy twist to this Italian classic.
- For the salad
6 oz crusty sourdough or ciabatta bread (about 4 cups once cubed)
2 tbsp olive oil
12 oz tomatoes
3/4 tsp + ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste for seasoning
2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup packed torn basil
½ small red onion, or ¼ large
1 nectarine or peach
- For the dressing
Strained tomato liquid (from the tomatoes above, notes in recipe)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp shallots, minced
1.5 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano and thyme, mixed
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Cube the bread into 1-2 inch chunks and place in a bowl. Toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil, ½ tsp salt, and pepper to taste. Lay the bread out on an unlined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until crisped and browned, but still slightly tender.
- While the croutons bake, cut the tomatoes into halves (for cherry tomatoes) or wedges (for larger tomatoes) and place in a strainer on top of a large bowl (large enough to hold the whole salad when finished). Add ¾ tsp of salt and toss to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes. During this time, the salt will pull the juices out of the tomatoes and into the large bowl.
- Meanwhile, slice the nectarine into thin wedges and the red onion into half rings.
- When the croutons are done, remove them from the oven and set to cool.
- After 15 minutes (or longer), shake the strainer with the tomatoes in them over the bowl to release any more juice into the bowl, then set the tomatoes aside. You should have at least ⅛ cup strained juice at the bottom of the bowl.
- Add all of the dressing ingredients to the bottom of the bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed (I like mine on the verge of salty).
- Add the tomatoes, croutons, nectarines, basil, and onions to the bowl and toss to combine, making sure the dressing coats everything. Add lots of freshly ground black pepper and top with flakey sea salt.
- Enjoy immediately, or wait about 10 minutes. The bread will slowly soak up more of the dressing overtime and change consistency. Wait too long and it will get quite soggy, but it’s still delicious in its own way.
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