4 to 6 servings
An ode to the peak of the peach and tomato season.
A traditional panzanella (“little swamp” in a Tuscan dialect) is a bread salad with a lot of tomatoes, some olive oil, possible cucumbers, and other accoutrements. A delicious strategy for reconstituting stale bread, it is normally a pleasantly mushy affair, with yesterday’s bread having absorbed today’s tomato juices and olive oil into a little swamp of summer flavor, and hence, the name.
This panzanella is different.
Rather than being thrown into the heap to swampify, the bread is reincarnated as grilled toast, and served on the side as an eager sop for an expanded cucumber salad that has been graced with thick slices of perfect summer peaches and vine-ripened tomatoes.
• Make the cucumber salad at least an hour—and up to a day—ahead of time. Note that seasoned rice vinegar is the kind that is slightly salted and lightly sweetened. Not the same as plain. It should be readily available in the Asian foods section of any grocery store.
1 medium-sized red onion
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
4 small (6-inch) sweet cucumbers—peeled if skin is bitter, and cut into ½-inch chunks
2 to 3 medium-sized perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes (a pound or more)
2 to 3 medium-sized perfectly ripe peaches or nectarines (about a pound)
Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1 tablespoon for the bread, the rest to put on the table as a condiment)
5 or 6 thick slices ciabatta or another artisan bread (about 1/2 pound) – fresh or day-old
• Diced fresh cheese (Mexican queso blanco, ricotta salata, manouri, feta)
• Fresh basil, in thin strips
• Marcona almonds (mixed with crumbled rosemary = extra nice)
• Black pepper