Perfect Panzanella

Panzanella may be the best salad idea ever – and I’m pretty sure this is the perfect panzanella recipe. Olive-oil-toasted bread hunks, rustic chops of green and red peppers, tomatoes, and more, plus basil plucked fresh from the garden… good, good, good stuff.

Perfect Panzanella - Olive-oil-toasted bread hunks, rustic chops of green and red peppers, tomatoes, and more - plus basil plucked fresh from the garden.

I’m not Italian. So, totally, not even close. Even if one of my ancestors contributed a teensy amount of Italy to my melting-pot blood, I’m thinking it turned out to be a recessive thing.

Which is kind of a bummer, really. I’m so white bread. I don’t have the first clue how to say “mozzarella” or “biscotti” like Giada does. Eating that stuff, though, is a different story. I am pretty good at that.

Italian food. I don’t think there’s any cuisine I love more. Espresso, cheese, wine, pasta, pesto, olives, basil, tomatoes tomatoes everywhere.

And Panzanella, also known as Italian bread salad. I’m sure my version – based on the Ina Garten version and the version I personally think is the most perfect salad ever – is Americanized to the nth degree. It’s also insanely delicious.

Perfect Panzanella - Olive-oil-toasted bread hunks, rustic chops of green and red peppers, tomatoes, and more - plus basil plucked fresh from the garden.

The bread is more like big, beautiful croutons than limp mounds of soggy stuff (which, I admit, the first time I heard of bread salad, this is what I imagined). Olive-oil-toasted bread hunks along with rustic chops of green and red peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet onions, green olives, and basil plucked fresh from the garden, then tossed with a nice olive oil and balsamic dressing kissed with Dijon mustard. This stuff makes me want to write run-on sentences.

Here in Seattle, we’re finally seeing a few tomatoes ripen. Why not find a use for that half loaf of stale bread you’ve got laying around, and a couple of those amazing tomatoes? Oh, and here’s the audio file of how to pronounce “Panzanella” so you don’t have to go around saying “Panzaneeya” or “Panz… [mumble, trailing off].” Not that I ever did such a thing.

Perfect Panzanella - Olive-oil-toasted bread hunks, rustic chops of green and red peppers, tomatoes, and more - plus basil plucked fresh from the garden.

Here’s the recipe.

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Perfect Panzanella

Olive-oil-toasted bread hunks, rustic chops of green and red peppers, tomatoes, and more - plus basil plucked fresh from the garden. Perfect panzanella indeed.


Ingredients:


  • 1/2 green pepper

  • 1/2 red pepper

  • 2 medium tomatoes

  • 1/2 cucumber

  • 1/2 medium sweet onion (red works too, if you like)

  • 15 leaves of fresh basil

  • 15 or so green olives, cut in half if they're big

  • 3-4 cups bread cubes (from a one, two, or even three day old loaf of rustic, crusty bread. This is the perfect use for half that leftover baguette, I think.)

  • 5-6 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


Vinaigrette dressing:



  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (I'm sure regular ol' balsamic would be equally tasty)

  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste


Directions:


  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan. Medium heat.

  2. Keeping the heat on medium, add the bread cubes and the salt, and toss.

  3. Stir frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the cubes are nice and toasty and brown. Add more olive oil as you go - 1 tablespoon at a time - when the pan starts looking too dry. I usually end up using about 6 tablespoons of olive oil.

  4. Remove bread cubes from heat.

  5. Chop up the veggies, trying to keep the sizes as uniform as possible, as follows. Toss in the bowl as you go.

  6. Cut the green and red peppers in half, and deseed. Chop into bite-size squares.

  7. Peel the cucumber half. I like to leave a little peel on for color. And then slice the peeled half lengthwise into quarters, and chop into bite-size pieces.

  8. Cut the tomatoes into wedges. Throw 'em in.

  9. Cut the onion in half and slice one half thinly. Separate the rings into the salad bowl. This time I used a beautiful fresh Walla Walla onion from the farmer's market. Yum.

  10. Layer the basil leaves on top of one another and cut them into wide shreds. Add to the bowl.

  11. Cut the olives in half if they're on the big side. And throw those in, too.

  12. Make the viniagrette: In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients.

  13. Add the bread to all of those good-looking veggies, pour in the vinaigrette, and toss well.

  14. Top with a sprinkling of more kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste. Serve.


Adapted from Ina Garten


// All images and text © for Kitchen Treaty.

Karen Raye

Kare is a vegetarian home cook living among carnivores. She loves creating irresistible and flexible recipes that help multi-vore families like hers keep the peace - deliciously.