Italy is not famous for its bread. Don't get me wrong, there are many excellent regional breads, several different qualities. But usually when you think bread you think France and its crusty baguette or Germany and its pumpernickel and whole grain or nutty breads.
The other day we were walking through Marina Marciana, a quaint little town on the northern shore of the island and a little, pretty whitewashed bread store caught my eye in the central piazza. In the windows were the most beautiful crostate (tarts made with jam). Their peach crostata especially intrigued me as Elba peaches are some of the best I have ever tasted.
In I went; the walls were decorated with bread sculptures and the shelves were covered in pretty loaves sprinkled with sea salt and herbs. I decided to buy the crostata (yes, the place turned out to be a tourist trap. The cake was good, don't get me wrong, but not good enough to justify its price). But buying the cake was the real experience. You know what I mean? Does that happen to you too?
Aaaanyway, back to bread. We had a lovely panzanella salad the other day for lunch. I have been seeing recipes and photos all over the blogging world recently and have to admit it is not quite as trendy here, despite being its country of origin. I really don't remember growing up eating it all that often. Sure enough, as soon as I tasted it again after ages, I realized what all the hype was about. And it has the added bonus of not requiring any cooking. The perfect dish for a hot summer's day.
Stale bread or dried bread (like friselle from Apulia)
tonnina (raw salted tuna)
a few anchovy fillets
1 red onion
Soak the tonnina (if you can find some) in a bowl of water for a few hours to get rid of the salt). Cut the onion into thin slices. Break the bread into bite size chunks, chop the tomatoes, the basil and the anchovies and mix it with the best extra virgin olive oil you have. The quanity and quality of the oil are crucial to making this a delicious salad. Panzanella is originally a Tuscan recipe, so unsalted bread (pane sciocco) is usually used.