I struggle with raw tomatoes in this country. Unless plucked directly from our allotment, still warm from the sun’s kiss and sweet from the caress of fresh air and goodness, they just don’t taste good; bitter, wet and sour to my palate. Perhaps because I’ve tasted the tomatoes in Italy and France, somehow more full of flavour than anything I’ve tasted over here. Placebo maybe, when everything is blessed with that mediterranean sunshine. Or could it be that my cynical side takes over, having spent several months picking tomatoes in Bowen, Australia, I’ve seen the industrial side of production, the plucking of under ripe fruit, then storing and synthetically ripening in warehouses with chemicals rather than on the plants themselves. At any rate, on the whole, I eat them grilled or roasted over here, blistered and charred. That is, of course, unless I find some outstanding specimens, in which case I’m more than happy to eat them as nature intended, accompanied with a creamy buffalo mozzarella, freshly picked basil and a good drizzle of olive oil.
Raw onion equally leaves me cold; I fear it’s aggressive bitterness, ditto raw pepper. For these reasons I find many raw salads too sharp and not wholly enjoyable. So, this is a sweet and mellow version of the classic panzanella salad, much more suited to my own tastes and a warming welcome as Autumn nudges Summer out of the way. I’d imagine silky, smoky aubergine would work really well with these charred vegetables, BBQ’d even better. Basically anything you care to toss in, are particularly keen on or have wilting around the kitchen. Clearly I’ve also made versions spiked with nduja, but you guessed that, right? It makes a great little brunch dish topped with an egg, yolk perfectly ready to pop, spilling it’s richness onto the salad.
More of an idea than a recipe, feel free to add or sub as you fancy and to your own tastes. I’m really not a fan of soggy bread, so mine has large croutons that are allowed to soften ever so slightly with the juices. Just not too much…
I haven’t put quantities here just some rough directions
Drizzle torn chunks of bread, of roughly equal size, liberally with olive oil, then toss with crushed garlic and put under the grill to toast.
Chop red onion, sweet red peppers and a mixture of tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar, plenty of seasoning then put under the drill until they start to blacken, blister and turn soft.
I had some thick slices of crumbly finocchiona (fennel salami), so I fried this off a little in a pan whilst frying an egg.
Add croutons to the vegetables and their juices and the salami, toss together and top with the fried egg.