When I think of Nigella, the last thing I think is salads. Indulgent, rich, dark desserts, maybe, but salads? All this was about to change when Dom at Belleau Kitchen who is hosting this month's Forever Nigella challenge announced that the theme was Salad Days.
Suddenly I was looking at Nigella in a completely different way. But Nigella being, well, Nigella, there were some pretty decadent looking salads in her recipes. I borrowed Kitchen, Feast and Nigella Bites from the library, and after much poring over the recipes, finally settled on this gorgeous looking Panzanella from 'Kitchen'. OK, I admit it, the name hooked me at first. As Nigella herself says in the introduction to this salad, how can you resist such a pretty, princessy name like Panzanella? Not me, of course, so I set my heart on making it.
First off, I am well known for making easy things difficult, right? Yes, that's true. So I decided I was going to make my own bread for the recipe. I looked up Pugliese bread, and ruled out making it almost immediately, as most of the recipes had it made with either a Thermomix or a Kitchenaid. Not having either, I had to fall back on my basic bread recipe. Instead of baking it in a loaf tin, I shaped it into a round loaf, then baked it up.
It was gorgeous! All yummy and bready and soft crusty. The perfect loaf to tear up and make a salad with, yes!
I made a few adjustments to the original recipe, and so am posting it up. Nothing major, just a few tweaks to quantities and a couple of additions and substitutions. The original recipe can be found in her wonderful book 'Kitchen' and I think this is one book I am going to have to buy, as I have already found a ton of recipes I want to make from it.
And the most important question - the taste? I honestly cannot describe it without going into Nigellaesque raptures. It was quite tangy, and the bread soaked up the dressing beautifully. It was hearty and rustic, but with the complexity of a much more sophisticated dish. It was so easy to prepare, yet looked like I'd spent hours on it. And Nigella suggests that its better to make it ahead, so it even passes the 'can-I-make-it-in-advance-because-I-am-a-lazy-sod?' test.
A princess among salads, indeed!
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's 'Kitchen'
3/4 loaf bread, cubed or torn into smallish chunks
1 big bunch basil
1 small red onion, diced fine
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 small clove garlic, grated
2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2+1 large ripe tomatoes
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Handful pine nuts (opt)
In a small bowl, whisk together the diced onion, vinegars, garlic, salt and sugar.
Place 2 tomatoes in a heatproof bowl, and pour over some boiling water. Leave for 3 minutes, then carefully take out the tomatoes, peel and deseed, then crush coarsely.
Add the crushed tomatoes to the whisked vinaigrette mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Put the dressing in the fridge, if possible, overnight, as the flavours really come together.
To assemble the salad, place the bread into a large bowl, and pour over the dressing, and the 100ml olive oil. Mix together well.
Thinly slice the remaining tomato into wedges, and add to the salad, along with a bunch of roughly chopped basil leaves. Stir again.
Serve with a sprinkle of pine nuts, if you want.
Note: Nigella suggests making the whole salad, except the basil, and putting the fridge overnight. But I didn't want a super damp salad, so I only put the dressing in the fridge overnight, and assembled the salad the next day. Feel free to do whatever you want here.