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Basic Bread Salad

Looking for a quick dinner and a good way to use up any slightly stale bread you have? The magic word is “Panzanella” – also known as bread salad. You can go basic on this and leave out the scallions and herbs if you don’t have those around. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, try a bit of tomato sauce. Or leave it out entirely, and use a bit more olive oil.

I used about a quarter of a baguette-type bread loaf (it was a bit larger and softer than the classic French baguette), sliced.

Tear slices into smaller pieces while heating olive oil and a pat of butter in a 12 inch pan (cast iron). If you have it, add a bit of anchovy oil. Trust me, it’ll add depth. Once the oil is hot, add the bread pieces and stir, so the pieces can soak up the oil. Add the chopped whites of two scallions, if using. Stir and let the bread crisp up. I had a sprig of herb fennel in the pan as well, but you can leave it out, or use some other hardy herb like sage, perhaps.

After a few minutes, add in about 5 – 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered roughly, and the scallion greens. Or use just a few teaspoons of tomato sauce or some other sauce you’d like (roasted red pepper maybe). Salt and pepper to taste.

Let the tomatoes warm up but don’t leave things on the heat too long – you don’t want the bread to get soggy again. Take the pan off the heat and put everything into a salad or pasta bowl. Toss in some chopped fresh basil if you have it, and then toss everything with a few tablespoons of fresh goat cheese (herbed or plain).

Eat warm.

You can build this up or scale it down based on what you have available. The key is to crisp the old bread in a pan with some oil, maybe some garlic too, and then add something with a bit of liquid, and then the soft cheese (for example, this could also work with fresh mozzarella). Then you have a lovely mix of crunchy and soft and cheesy and juicy summer vegetables, and dinner is done.

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