I have eaten Panzanella a few times but never used it to complement a whole dish. The sea bass was reduced in the supermarket and already having some oldish bread in the house I thought this would be perfect. I always have tomatoes on the side in the kitchen because they are great to add to other dishes.
The cheapest place to get Sea Bass at the moment is Aldi, two fillets for under £3.00. You can substitute sea bass for pollock, sea bream, salmon or Basa fillets. You don’t want anything to over powering as you want the flavour to come from the Panmolle.
Griddle Your Fish
I find that the easiest way to cook fish is on the griddle plate, you can see exactly how the fish is cooking. Also I find it much easier to turn over because you don’t have the sides of a pan hindering you either. A top tip to stop your fish sticking to the griddle is to use greaseproof paper, it also protects the griddle itself. The griddle plate needs to be cast iron so it retains heat better, I have a double plate that I purchased from Amazon. The other great taste of cooking your fish on a griddle is the skin becomes so crispy and tasty, the same as if you barbecued fish.
The fish was simply cooked with salt and pepper as the flavour hit came from the panzenalla.
What Is Panzanella
Panzanella is traditional peasant Italian food, a dish mainly from Tuscany where it was frowned upon to throw bread away. Tuscany is renowned for the recipes that they have created using stale bread. They were plentiful in tomatoes and olive oil and not wanting to waste their stale bread they created panmolle with other strong flavours. Traditional it has stale bread, onion, olive oil vinegar and occasionally basil. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that they began to add tomatoes and other ingredients such as cucumber.
Then the Panzanella recipe started to evolve with other ingredients and variations much to the disaprovement of the traditional Florentines. The other ingredients to the tomato and bread salad were, anchovies, lettuce, garlic, lemon juice, capers, celery parsley, boiled eggs, parsley, mint, bell peppers, mozzarella and some even include tuna !
I kept my quite a traditional panzanella with the ingredients that I had to hand and what I liked, after all it is cheap dinner ideas and with a list of ingredients above it would not be.
My Panzanella Ingredients
Stale bread of course, its not often I buy bread, I usually make my own bread recipe but this was reduced and I used it for my giant fish finger sandwich. Tomatoes yes because I always have some in the kitchen, I always have tinned anchovies in the kitchen because they pack so much flavour into a tiny bite. Roasted red peppers in a jar because they are so versatile and are on my list of ingredients of cooking for one. Onions because they can go into so many dishes.
I also added grated garlic because basil, olive oil and tomatoes with garlic is a marriage made in heaven. The olive oil ! well I also add a splash of lemon olive oil because it lifts the dish so much in flavour. Then black olives from a jar because I had run out of capers to add a little more salty taste.
What Bread Do You Use in Panzanella
If you have some then some Italian style bread, but if you do not have any then any stale bread will suffice, ideally something crusty so it adds texture to the tomato and bread salad.
Types of Italian Bread Suitable For Panmolle
- Pane Pugliese
- Pane Toscano
- 200 g stale ciabatta
- 600 g ripe tomatoes chopped
- rock salt
- 1 small handful of capers drained (optional)
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- 1 jar roasted red peppers
- 8 anchovy fillets
- red wine vinegar
- olive oil
- fresh basil
- 1 handful black olives (no capers in the kitchen)
- Tear the ciabatta into rough 3cm pieces and place on a tray. Leave aside in a warm place for around 30 minutes – this helps to dry it out.
- Place the tomatoes in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Rinse the capers, squeezing out any excess liquid and add to the bowl, along with the onion, peppers, ciabatta and anchovies, if using. Toss the mixture together with your hands, then stir in 2 tablespoons of vinegar and about 3 times as much extra virgin olive oil. Taste and add a little more salt, pepper, vinegar or oil, if needed.
- Tear in the basil leaves, stir together and serve. Delicious with barbecued meats or roast chicken. Also good with grilled fish
Roasted red peppers for great with this creamed vegetables and salmon dish.