This Panzanella salad with white anchovies, fennel & capers is my new obsession. My friend and well known Cape Town foodie Fiamma Swainston made it at my house recently, and I knew I had to share the recipe for it far and wide. It’s a riff on a rustic Tuscan bread salad where very few ingredients marry together to make an incredibly delicious dish. As with most things Italian, when you are preparing something as simple as this, there is no room to hide behind bad ingredients. Only the best should be used here.
Tomatoes are the cornerstone of this Panzanella and you really want to find the best you can. I bought 3 different kinds of heirlooms and allowed them to ripen for a few days at home at room temperature. Larger tomatoes are better here because when cut, they release juice which contributes to the dressing of this salad. I would not use anything but exceptional tomatoes or ones that at the very least have ripened to their peak.
Torn shards of ciabatta are roasted with olive oil and a hint of garlic until they turn into golden & crunchy croutons. This is the second most important part of this salad and the bread soaks up the delicious dressing. This salad requires really good olive oil. One neutral one to bake the croutons with and then a very good one to drizzle over the salad.
As for the fennel, I used the white part of a small bulb and shaved it very thinly on a mandolin. Along with a generous serving of capers or baby capers this salad gets more of a flavour punch.
I adore white anchovies so added quite a lot to the salad, but add however many you like. I personally think regular anchovies would be too strong in this Panzanella salad. I had some delicious white anchovies that were marinated in olive oil (these can be purchased from your local Mediterranean / Italian deli).
It’s best to make Panzanella just before you serve it. A good toss of the ingredients a few minutes before allows just the right amount of liquid to be absorbed by the croutons before making them soggy. I draped the anchovies over last to evenly distribute them and because they are so pretty.
This Panzanella salad with white anchovies, fennel and capers serves 4 as a starter and is a delicious opener for any Mediterranean feast.
Recipe – By Fiamma SwainstonPrint
Panzanella salad with white anchovies, fennel & capers
A delicious Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) with white anchovies, fennel & capers.
½ ciabatta loaf torn into bite-size shards
A generous few glugs of a neutral/ mild-tasting olive oil
1 small garlic clove chopped (optional)
About 7 medium & small tomatoes (mixed heirlooms that are ripe) – If you use large then reduce the quantity by half to 3 – 4 very large (approx. 700gms)
Approx. 40gms baby or regular capers drained of brine
2 tsp caper brine
1 small fennel bulb shaved on a mandolin
A few fennel leaves, finely chopped (about 1 Tbsp)
About 8 – 10 basil leaves finely shredded (and a few small ones to decorate)
A splash of red wine vinegar
Good olive oil to drizzle
Maldon sea salt
About 10 – 12 white anchovy fillets (cut in half or left whole)
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F and toss the shards of ciabatta in olive oil until lightly coated. Spread this out on a small baking tray and toast for around 20 minutes until golden and crunchy. Add a chopped garlic clove to the pan (tossing it through the bread) about 3 – 4 minutes before the croutons are finished (this prevents them from burning and going acrid). The croutons can be made in advance. Store in a sealed container if you do.
When you are ready to serve your salad, cut up the room temperature tomatoes into different shapes. This creates different textures and looks pretty. Place in a large bowl and add the drained capers, shaved fennel, fennel leaves & basil, a few splashes of red wine vinegar and a good drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and allow this to sit for a few minutes. This allows some of the juice from the tomatoes to be released which adds to the dressing. Add the croutons and toss everything together lightly. Toss once more and then spread the salad out on a flattish serving platter. Lay the anchovies over the top and serve.
Keywords: Panzanella, salad, Bread salad, white anchovies, fennel, capers, Italian, Tuscan
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