“I don’t think you can find a poorer dish than this one,” says Sofia Loren of this stale bread salad. “As a child during the war, when I’d see my grandmother busy preparing panzanella, I’d know right away that our household had run out of money. But I loved this kind of food so much that in absolute childhood innocence, I’d wish those hard times would come upon us more often”. Panzanella happens to be one of my favorite salads too, so I decided to incorporate it into a “small bite”. Putting the panzanella in a roasted portabello mushroom turns this salad into finger food, perfect as Merenda.
- 1 loaf country bread or ciabatta (about 12 oz)
- 6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or balsamic)
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, torn into small pieces
- 12 medium-size portabello mushrooms
- Cut or tear bread into 1-inch cubes, place in a large bowl.
- Add the onion and tomatoes (with any juice left on cutting board).
- Pour the olive oil and vinegar over the bread and tomatoes, mix thoroughly.
- Season with salt and pepper, add basil. Set aside while you prepare the mushrooms (stir occasionally so bread can absorb the vinaigrette). Depending on just how stale your bread is you may need a bit more olive oil and vinegar.
- Clean the mushrooms, remove the stems, place on lightly oiled baking sheet.
- Brush the inside and out of each mushroom lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
- At this point you can stuff the mushrooms with the salad and roast at 350* for 30 minutes, or you can roast the mushrooms and fill them after they are cooked. Both ways taste very good, but I prefer roasting, then stuffing. The entire bite just looks brighter and fresher.