I don’t do soggy food.
So croutons have always posed a bit of a dilemma for me… I like them, they’re crunchy and usually flavoured very nicely. However, I tend to push the mushy mess they become to the side of my plate when they are presented to me in a salad.
Except for my sister’s caesar salad… I know for a fact that she adds them in at the last second!
And croutons in soup? I’m sorry, but no. Dipping fresh or toasted bread into soup is perfectly fine and acceptable; in fact, it’s almost mandatory. Presenting me with a large crouton that has been sitting in my soup and is turning beautiful fluffy bread into a glue-like consistency? Just no.
Therefore, it was quite justifiable that I was a little hesitant in trying out a Tuscan bread salad, or panzanella.
Yes, I toasted the croutons a tad too long to make surethat they were nice and crispy. Yes, I waited until all the other salad ingredients were mixed and ready to go before I added them.
And you know what? The world didn’t end! Well, only because I ate my salad first so that my croutons wouldn’t go soggy…
This is a Jamie Oliver recipe, with a few tweaks and omissions here and there (mainly less oil and no anchovies). Interestingly, he seems to have a different method for this salad in Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals, Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals and on Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals TV Show. Oh, it’s different online too! I stumbled across the episode on YouTube while I was looking for something else before I realised my sister had bought me the book. So I made it using bits and pieces of information from a couple of different versions.
- 200g ciabatta (or any other country-style bread)
- 600g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes or heirloom tomatoes (roughly chopped)
- 200g roasted peppers (freshly roasted or from a jar; roughly chopped)
- 2 sprigs of rosemary (or 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary)
- 1 small bunch of fresh basil (leaves picked; chopped or left whole)
- 1 clove of garlic (minced)
- 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
- Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese to serve (grated)
- Preheat the grill.
- Tear the ciabatta into thumb-sized pieces. Put the croutons into a roasting tray and drizzle with oil. Add the rosemary sprigs and some sea salt. Mix to combine, making sure the bread is coated.
- Place the roasting tray under the grill to toast the croutons for about ten minutes or until golden, but watch them carefully as they can burn very quickly.
- Once golden and crisp, empty the croutons into a bowl and set them aside to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, put the chopped tomatoes and peppers in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the croutons, basil, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Toss to combine. Taste and season accordingly with additional salt, vinegar or oil.
- Add some grated parmesan over the top, add a few extra basil leaves for garnish and serve quickly to avoid soggy croutons.