Bread Salad with Patty Pan Squash, Mozzarella, Red Onion and Basil.
Panzanella, also known as Tuscan bread salad, is a classic Italian salad made from stale bread, soaked and rehydrated in the juices of chopped tomato, onion, olive oil and vinegar. It is a great way to use up stale bread that might otherwise be thrown out — Especially in Italy where a lot of their bread is made without salt and goes stale pretty quickly.
Italian cuisine purists would only use tomatoes, but this version swaps out tomatoes for patty pan squash cooked in whey. After making cheese, whey is the liquid that remains after the curds have been removed from milk. When you buy fresh mozzarella, that cloudy liquid the cheese sits in is whey. Don’t pour it down the sink, it has many great uses for cooking. Whey is salty, slightly creamy and can be used in place of water for many savoury dishes. Add it to soups, stocks, cooking water for pasta or use it in place of water to make bread.
As the squash cooks, the whey reduces and intensifies in flavour, perfect for soaking into the stale bread. If you don’t have stale bread, use fresh bread and toast it in the oven until dry.
Half loaf of ciabatta or any bread with big holes, cut or torn into chunks.
1kg patty pan squash, stems and seeds removed, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
250g bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls) or fresh buffalo mozzarella, torn into chunks.
Whey strained from mozzarella
A handful of basil leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Set oven to 200°c. Toast your fresh or stale bread until golden, 10-15 minutes. Add chopped squash to a roasting pan with reserved whey. This can go in while the bread is toasting. Cook for 45 minutes, until the whey has reduced and the squash is cooked and browned on the edges. Remove from oven and let cool, if you add the squash hot, the mozzarella will melt, causing the salad to clump together.
Slice half of a red onion into thin strips and place into a bowl of water for 5 minutes and then strain. Soaking the onion helps to soften the raw onion flavour.
Once the squash has cooled, add to a large mixing bowl with bread, mozzarella, onion and basil leaves. Add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with a couple of teaspoons of white wine vinegar and a big grind of pepper. Now mix everything together. Taste for saltiness and add salt if needed.