It’s summer, and the perfect time for a refreshing salad. In our family, recipes for panzanella, the traditional Italian bread salad, are currently all over the place. Sarah and Evan made a version for their cooking demonstrations in Shreveport that included pork from their pig-butchering demonstration. Now they have a recipe in the July issue of Food and Wine (pages 172-173) for a version that uses rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and fresh strawberries. Carol in Los Angeles made her recipe for us during our recent visit there. Hers was a more classic rendition that was equally delicious and went well with barbecued pork ribs.
Here is my spin. It contains Romaine lettuce and salmon, which are not included in traditional recipes, but I think they add to the flavors. I know, I know -salmon doesn’t even sound Italian, but Marcella Hazan has two salmon recipes and a commentary in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1992). I felt justified in using salmon. Try to use wild-caught fish if you can, but farmed salmon will also work. If you don’t like salmon, then shrimp or shell fish would probably also be tasty.
As well, don’t even bother trying the recipe if you don’t have a good quality artisanal rustic loaf of bread, or the end result will be a limp dough ball. The bread in this recipe was the farm loaf from a wonderful local artisanal bakery, Sage Bakehouse.
- 4-6 ounces salmon fillet, pin bones removed
- fish stock, enough to cover salmon
- ½ cup coarsely chopped dill fronds
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 3 anchovy fillets, drained
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 1 large Santa Fe Grande pepper, seeded and sliced into ¼ inch rings (any sweet yellow pepper may be substituted)
- ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1 small red onion
- 4 cups 1-inch bread cubes (4 1-inch slices of a good artisanal rustic loaf should yield about 4 cups. Remove crusts if you like)
- 3 large, ripe tomatoes
- 2 small snacking cucumbers cut into ½ inch rounds
- 1 Romaine heart washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a saucepan large enough to hold the salmon, bring the fish stock to the boil, and then reduce to simmer. Add the prepared salmon and poach for 5 minutes or until cooked through, turning once. Remove the salmon to a plate to cool
- Remove the skin from the cooled salmon, and with a fork, pull the fish into bite-sized pieces. Place in a covered dish, salt to taste, and add the chopped dill. Chill in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to add to the salad.
- Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, anchovies, and capers into a coarse paste. Transfer to a small bowl and add the pepper rings along with ¼ cup of olive oil and the vinegars. Mix well and let stand at room temperature until ready to assemble the salad.
- Slice the red onion into rounds, preferably suing a mandoline, and place in ice water until ready to be drained and added to the salad.
- On a small rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the bread cubes with the remaining olive oil, and place in the middle of an oven preheated to 350° F. Toast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. When the bread cubes are lightly browned, remove from the oven to cool.
- Place the bread cubes in your serving bowl. Cut one of the tomatoes into large chunks and squeeze over the bread, using a food mill to release the juice and bits of pulp, leaving skins and seeds behind. Stir the bread cubes so they absorb the juices and let stand for 10 minutes. (Actually, I used a potato ricer, which is much easier to clean than my food mill)
- Blanch the remaining 2 tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds. Cool, peel, seed, and cut into ½ inch chunks.
- Assemble the salad by adding the peppers and their marinade, drained red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce to the bowl of bread cubes. Gently stir in the salmon and chopped dill. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Toss and serve immediately.