How to Make Panzanella and Drink Lemon Meringue Pie

I haven’t mustered the courage to ask if I can photograph either of the brothers who run Centro Market. The surliest one was there when I stopped by, complete with stocking cap, muffler, and a week or two of stubble.

I wasted no time. “Pane duro?” I asked. He cocked his head toward me and frowned. I tried again. “Pane biscottatoduro?”

His face lit up and he grabbed two bags from the shelf behind him. Then lo and behold – he spoke English!

“This,” he said, pointing to one of the bags. “This you cannot bite.” He made chomping motions with his mouth shaking his head in an emphatic no. He pushed the other bag toward me. “This one is soft.”

“Grazie,” I said. “I want the hard one.”

He looked dubious. “First put in water for one minute. Then you can eat,” he said. I nodded. I’d already learned that trick at the winery after trying to bite into one of those rocks.

I looked up what the words meant in the circle at the top:
Old and modernized bakery from 1890

I checked ‘hard bread’ off my list. “Do you have coffee?”

I was ushered to the other side of the long counter and he explained which ones required a machine and which ones just need hot water.

Coffee, done. “And limoncello?”

He pointed. There were twelve varieties of that liqueur in his tiny market. I browsed waiting for a sign to determine which to choose. One toward the far end caught my eye. “What’s this?” I pointed.

He came to my side and picked up the bottle. “Yes, this with crema. Crema and limone mix.”

I love Baileys Irish Cream. I’ve never had a liqueur with cream other than that. Cream with lemon would either be divine or disgusting.

“Ok. That one, per favore.” I’m really trying hard to use my eight words of Italian whenever I can.

I was excited walking home with the large bag of rock-solid bread hitting my back as I bumped down the steps. In my mind I imagined the process: chop the tomatoes, slice the onion, fill the colorful ceramic bowl with water and soak my pane duro to just the right consistency. Saliva filled my mouth.

Once home, groceries unpacked, I Googled ‘Italian winter salad tomato and hard bread’ and up popped images for Panzanella. So that was the name of the concoction that had thrilled me. Panzanella.

I read through several recipes and found the simplest one. A lengthy description warned me that after assembling Panzanella, it needs to rest up to four hours at room temperate for the bread to absorb the juices and flavors to mingle.

If I started now it would be ready for an early dinner.

Embracing my new love for all things food, I began.

First, tomatoes and onion. Normally I’m not a raw onion fan. But I have to say, in this mix the onion is perfect. Even if you don’t like raw onion, try it just once to make sure you don’t miss something quite magical.

Aren’t they gorgeous? These chunks could be used as cannon balls they’re that hard.

Here we go. While the pane duro soaked I mixed an olive oil, white wine, salt, and pepper dressing then added it to the tomato-onion mixture.

I checked the bread. It had maintained its shape and appeared ready. I took it out of the water and broke it into large pieces.

Then cut it into smaller chunks.

Regular bread would have been a gooey mess, but not this robust loaf. I added the bite-sized pieces to the waiting salad and gently mixed.

Oh, you’re beautiful! Your aromas – heavenly! And now? I have to wait…??


In the meantime maybe I could test the Crema di Limone…what a good idea!

Whoa! Liquid lemon meringue pie! No, I’m serious. That’s exactly what it tastes like: creamy-tart yet sweet. And 20% alcohol by volume? Whoops! This needs to wait. It’ll be dessert. What else shall I do to distract myself?

I could write a blog post…

Which I did. And now my friends, Panzanella is ready! On a whim I added the last ball of buffalo mozzarella and here it is, the finished product.

Mmmmmm – oh yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Now if you’ll excuse me…it’s dinner time!

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sebastian Luciano
    Feb 27, 2020 @ 01:29:35

    My mouth is watering. I’m surprised you haven’t meant a handsome italian gentleman yet to show you around and keep you company.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Karin Grouf
    Feb 27, 2020 @ 01:53:31

    All these things are doable but won’t taste the same. It’s the flour, the tomatoes and the lemons and olive oil. The simplest recipes are the best and most Italian
    homes always have these ingredients plus garlic and onions. Weather in pasts or chopped and put on bread, one never goes hungry in Italy. Need I forget that wine flies always. French and Greek are never as abundant as Italians. Even in Spain . So enjoy it all.

    Liked by 2 people


  3. stevecastley
    Feb 27, 2020 @ 05:20:15

    The Panzanella looks delish! No doubt it tasted as good. Keep having fun. Love the posts.

    Liked by 1 person


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