Lemon juice, parsley, cucumber add surprising flavors to this summer panzanella

Tomatoes of every color are flowing from farmers market stands and CSA boxes, and the ones from the grocery store finally taste like tomatoes again.

Tomatoes, cucumbers and crusty ciabatta are in this summer panzanella from “The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School” by Alison Cayne. Contributed by Con Poulos.

Many gardeners who grow tomatoes have a favorite way to make panzanella, and this simple version from “The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School: Recipes and Inspiration to Build a Lifetime of Confidence in the Kitchen” by Alison Cayne (Artisan Books, $35) is notable for its use of lemon juice and parsley.

Those two distinct flavors stand out just like other additions you might have already used, such as peaches or mozzarella cheese. Don’t go overboard with components in this salad, though. Less is more when we’re talking about the year’s best tomatoes.

Summer Panzanella

1 small ciabatta loaf (about 6 cups cubed)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, ideally a variety of heirlooms
1 small red onion
1 English cucumber
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 bunch of basil, leaves torn
1/2 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut or tear the ciabatta into 1-inch pieces. In a large bowl, toss the bread with the 1/4 cup olive oil and a pinch of salt until coated. Let the oil soak into the bread for 3 minutes.

Place the bread pieces on the baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

While the bread is toasting, prepare the tomatoes by cutting them into fork-size wedges and tossing them in a large bowl with a few pinches of salt. Salting the tomatoes creates a liquid, which gets absorbed by the croutons, softening them a bit and giving them flavor.

Cut the red onion down the middle from pole to pole, peel, and then cut into thin slices. Soak in ice water until you are ready to toss and plate the salad; this helps maintain the crunch and tempers the pungency. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, cut off the ends and discard, then slice into 1/4-inch half circles.

Add the croutons to the bowl of tomatoes and toss gently to combine.

Drain the red onion and place in the bowl with the tomatoes. Add the cucumber and lemon juice, and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss gently with your hands.

Add the basil and parsley and toss gently again. When ready to serve, season the salad with grated cheese and lemon zest.

— From “The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School: Recipes and Inspiration to Build a Lifetime of Confidence in the Kitchen” by Alison Cayne (Artisan Books, $35)

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