picnic food: panzanella

8 Jul

Picnics? Again? Can’t we just go to a restaurant?

This scandalous remark was tantamount to declaring the end of our friendship. Even my four year old students understand that summer means pique-nique. They are so happy about our virtual picnics that they try to eat the flashcards.

No cardboard cakes at my idea of a picnic. Nor just crisps and beer. A picnic is a delicate balance – you need some bread and cheese, of course, as well as a vegetable, some fruit and something luxurious. The most recent one was capped by wine-dark cherries dragged through the puddle of chocolate that had melted in the evening heat. Though it might sound sophisticated, we ended up spitting the pips into the Seine, competing for the furthest distance. Our picnic-adjacent neighbours gave us a disgusted look and moved. We returned home barefoot, grubby, happy to withstand the glares on the metro.

So the food is not really the point. Just the underpinnings. Panzanella is low key – just plump tomatoes, stale bread and highlights of basil. But somehow the bread absorbs the tomato juice, the olive oil and a hint of onion and binds it all together. Pan-zan-ella. The word itself sounds like it should mean “bread salad wearing a pretty skirt”.



serves a crowd

1 kg ripe tomatoes

1 large baguette tradition, preferably a day old

1 red onion

1 bunch radishes

liberal amounts of olive oil

a splash of balsamic vinegar

several leaves of basil


Cut the tomatoes into large chunks and dice the onions. Toss with oil and vinegar, violently enough to release the juice from the tomatoes. Add the bread ripped into crouton-sized pieces (the same as the tomatoes) the basil, torn up, and some salt. Toss it all together and taste, adjust seasoning if necessary.

Leave for about an hour so that the bread absorbs the dressing without becoming too soggy.

Eat straight from the bowl.

2 Responses to “picnic food: panzanella”


  1. penultimate | tangerine drawings - July 20, 2013

    […] that scratch the roof of your mouth. A baguette and a half: torn up roughly it is perfect for panzanella, with enough oomph to soak up all the saved tomato juices, the inordinately generous glug of olive […]

  2. guillaume’s gazpacho | tangerine drawings - April 25, 2015

    […] ingredients and left them in the fridge to soften and meld and intensify. It looked remarkably like panzanella, one of my favourite summer dishes – tomatoes, bread, herbs, oil and vinegar, bread to soak […]

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: