Panzanella is a peasant dish that was made throughout Southern Italy when there was little else but bread and tomatoes to eat. These days it's graduated to upscale restaurants and here's a version I concocted using heirloom tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and a Fruttato olive oil. This is adapted from my own cookbook, "Deliciously Italian: From Sunday Supper to Special Occasions/101 Recipes to Share and Enjoy" (Citadel Press, 2006)
1 loaf stale Italian bread (at least two days old)
1/2 cup \ntwo tablespoons Extra Virgin Frutatto Olive Oil\n\n
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
5 medium heirloom tomatoes chopped into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup cup high quality balsamic vinegar
2 cups basil, leaves sliced into 1/4 inch slivers
salt and pepper to taste
Step 1Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut bread into small (1/2 inch) cubes and bake in preheated oven for 6 or 7 minutes until browned.
Step 2Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until butter melts. Add garlic and stir fry for about a minute. Do not let garlic burn. Ad bread cubes to skillet and mix with garlic and oil.
Step 3In a large bowl, thoroughly toss the bread cubes, remainder of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, tomato cubes, and basil. Add salt and pepper and let sit for a few minutes until the flavors blend. Serve in individual pasta bowls.
Step 4Chef's note: The fruttato olive oil gives this a very sweet olivey taste. You could use regular extra virgin olive oil, but it's not quite as distinctive. The quality of all the ingredients is particularly important in this dish as there's really not much to it but bread, tomatoes and flavorings.