The roll of bread in salads Panzanella, Caesar - Part one......

Cheap as chips but as fashionable as Foie Gras
The Portuguese word for meal is refeição.At a Portuguese table, food and bread are inseparable.You will notice people begin to nibble on bread the moment they sit down to eat,just bread alone,no butter,a drizzle of olive oil perhaps. My observations are that no further bread is eaten until the main course has been eaten,then and only then morsels of bread are applied to sop up the juices of  the "sopa" (stock or gravy) in which the stew has been cooked.This is in the event that the main course has not had fried bread already included as an integral part of the dish with that very function in mind.The bread is only removed from the table  after you have finished the salad, whose most delectable part many claim is the tiny puddles of lightly salted and vinegary oil that,at the end,you soak up with bread.But what if you combine the bread with the salad,the Portuguese just don´t seem to do it.The range and variety of Portuguese breads is extensive and here in Portugal there is a very high bread consumption (bread being always present at every meal)which explains why it gets to be  left over in sufficient quantities to justify cooking it.There are a thousand and one recipes using left over bread,Migas being the most emulated,followed by the many varieties of Açordas( bread pap),close cousins of the Italian pappa al pomodoro. These recipes have the obvious advantage of using up stale bread lying about the house,but not one involving salad.
My leftover bread from just one day at Casa Rosada
But forget red herrings. My goal here is to see whether we can find a hybrid "bread salad" for the Portuguese table.The Italians, immigrant or otherwise, have two classic bread salads Caesar and Panzanella.In the former Romaine lettuce leaves are mixed with crispy homemade croutons and tossed with a yummy, creamy dressing of anchovies, eggs, garlic, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil and then carpeted with parmesan cheese or topped with parmesan shavings.The salad's creation is generally attributed to restaurateur Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant to America.He supposedly tossed the first Caesar tableside in the early 20th century. This evidence is supported by Julia Child  claiming ( “Bon appetite" ) that she had eaten a Caesar salad at Cardini's restaurant when she was a child in the 1920s.The latter is a traditional peasant dish from Tuscany which was created to use up bread that was several days old. It has been copied and reinterpreted world over.I thought Id try my hand at making a new Portuguese riff on panzanella. I´ve called it  "paozaninho." I have taken some of the best of Portugal´s summer produce and created a bread salad with tomatoes, peppers,courgette,aubergine, anchovies, olives and of course  not forgetting the most important ingredient, day old bread.I have introduced a cooked element into my version using roasted vegetables which exude some wonderful juices into the salad giving  another level to its depth.I roasted some cherry tomatoes and garlic to give the dressing an edge and a lift.There are so many variations on a theme of the original Tuscan panzanella (Gennaro Contaldo even puts tuna in his), so I dont feel quite so bad.Panzanella is a peasant salad that has transcended  its origins and become fashionable.Long ago, recipes called for dipping the bread in well water.If you should so happen to have a well handy,all well and good and by all means do so!Lacking that I suppose the modern equivalent would be bottled spring water but this seems a little all my eye and Betty Martin.
The idea is that the bread mops up all the oil, vinegar and delicious juices from the vegetables.It becomes especially useful when you have a number of mouths to feed. 

What I think a Portuguese bread salad would be were a recipe to exist

Substantial enough to be a summer main course.A coarse open textured bread made with olive oil or a ciabatta is best as it holds its shape and does not disintegrate. 
serves 4-6
225g/8oz coarse open textured day old bread
5 ripe tomatoes on the vine
a handful of cherry tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
3 red peppers
1 small courgette
1 small aubergine
2 tbsp wine vingar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
50g/2oz can anchovy fillets
1/2 cucumber peeled and cut into cubes
1 medium red onion halved then finely sliced
2 sticks of celery plus torn celery leaves                                                             handful fresh torn basil
handful fresh mint coarsely chopped
handful parsley chopped
home made celery salt
and pepper to season
Lightly rub the peppers all over with some extra virgin olive oil
chop the aubergine and courgette into chunks put them all on a foil lined roasting tray with the garlic cloves and cherry tomatoes.

Roast for about 45 minutes at 200C/400F/gas 6 until the skin on the peppers begins to char and the other vegetables have taken on some colour.Set the aubergine and courgette aside to cool.

Put the roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic in a sieve over a bowl and press the pulp through the sieve to create a thick passata type juice.Discard the seeds and remaining pulp.

Remove the peppers to a bowl and cover with cling film.leave until cool enough to handle then peel off the skins.

Tear the bread into chunky pieces and put in a salad bowl.Sprinkle with a tablespoon of water and 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Peel and halve the the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds and inners into a sieve and repeat the process into the same bowl that you pulped the cherry tomatoes and garlic.Add the vinegar and olive oil and mix well to combine.
Now add the roasted vegetables, chopped tomatoes, anchovies,celery,onion and cucumber to the bread.Toss well to mix.Pour the dressing over and leave to stand for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend.Then serve garnished with the basil mint and parsley.
Cut the bread into 2cm/1/4 inch chunks and drizzle with 50ml (2 fl oz/ 1/4 cup) of oil.Put the bread on a roasting tray and bake in the oven unti slightly toasted on the outside but still softish in the middle.

Coming up on O Cozinheiro: In Part 2 O cozinheiro creates a new Lebanese riff on panzanella and casts an eye over some other bread salads including some inspiration from Nadia G´s Mshalale Salad with a zippy zesty lemon vinaigrette.


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