Anchovies and bread. Not too much, huh? Yes it may seem a little, but it was enough to take an ordinary vegetable salad to new, exciting level. Perhaps I should start form the beginning…
When I first saw “Two Greedy Italians” series and then I read the book I paid a special attention to he dishes coming from la cucina povera, created by the poverty. They are simple, seasonal, using locally sourced ingredients, quite often using bread (stale, so it did not go to waste), as it was relatively cheap and widely available. It also feels up easily. One of the classic dishes of la cucina povera is panzanella - a salad made from stale bread, tomatoes, oil and vinegar. Sometimes people add some basil and onion, however less is more in this case.
In the book I have found a recipe for a salad inspired by classic panzanella. Contaldo used more vegetables and made this sweet and sour twist on this classic dish. I have fallen in love when I saw this on TV, but the outcome was even better that I would have ever expected. Lets be honest – with this number of ingredients it is not longer la cucina povera, but you have to admit the influence is quite strong.
The original recipe used double baked bread called frasella (or freselle, frisedde, fresedde, frise). If you do not have it you can use decent country style, sourdough bread, that you have to bake or toast.
1 small carrot, peeled, cut into matchsticks (julienne)
2 pieces of celery, as above
50ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 anchovy fillets
1 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
½ red pepper, seeds removed, cut into matchsticks (julienne)
½ yellow pepper, as above
½ aubergine,as above
1 small courgette, as above
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only ( I used lemon thyme)
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
piece of country bread, toasted
handful basil leaves
Blanch the carrot and celery strips in a pan of boiling salted water for three minutes. Drain, place in cool water for few minutes, to prevent further cooking, drain again and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large lidded frying pan and stir in the anchovies. Cook until they have almost dissolved into the oil. Add the shallot and garlic and fry until softened.
Add the peppers, aubergine and courgette strips and continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes, then stir in the thyme leaves, sugar and vinegar, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Carefully add the blanched carrot and celery to the pan and cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Break the country bread slices into bite-sized pieces and arrange half of the bread on a plate. Top with the vegetables, scatter over the basil leaves, the remaning bread and drizzle with a little oil. Serve warm or cold.