I think I revealed just how panzanella crazy I am when I raved about the stuff last month. Panzanella, for the uninitiated, is an Italian bread salad. “Bread salad” is not nearly as soggy as it might sound, by the way. Think delicious croutons in overdrive, combined with a bunch of other yummy stuff – pretty much pure non-soggy nirvana in a bowl. And it’s so easy to throw together.
When I came up with this adaptation, I was inspired in two ways:
- My freakish love for anything caprese. Tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella? Does it get any better?
- Something the witty, talented, and very cool Jennifer Jo from Mama’s Minutia said when she commented on the aforementioned perfect panzanella recipe: “…And what about adding some cubes of fresh homemade mozzarella cheese?“
Fresh mozzarella cheese added to panzanella? Oh heck yes. I’m not daring enough to try making my own cheese (yet), but I can certainly buy some at the store. And I can make this amazing salad, and I can scarf it down, and I can declare it one of the best things ever.
(By the way, I highly recommend a visit or three to Jennifer Jo’s blog. She’s a terrific writer – highly engaging and downright hilarious – and she’s got some great ideas and recipes. Bonus: those blue shoes in her avatar image? Too frickin’ cute.)
Caprese panzanella is just about exactly how it sounds: Bread, toasted in olive oil. Tomatoes. Lots of them. Basil. Lots of that. And, yes, cubes of fresh mozzarella. All tossed in a white balsamic vinaigrette. So good.
Fresh mozzarella and basil elevate the classic Italian bread salad to something even more special. Quite possibly the perfect summer salad.
- 3 cups day-old bread cubes (artisan types are best; I tend to use leftover baguettes)
- 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large ripe tomatoes
- 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes (I like these for color; another large tomato will work fine as a substitute if you prefer)
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella (about a cup's worth of cheese when cubed)
- 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- Additional salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 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
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil to a large saute pan, and warm over medium heat.
- Keeping the heat on medium, add the bread cubes and the salt, and toss.
- Stir frequently for about 10 minutes, until the cubes are well toasted. Whenever the pan dries out, add a little more olive oil, about a tablespoon at a time.
- Remove bread cubes from heat and allow to cool completely.
- Seed and dice the tomatoes and add to a large bowl. I keep the tomato chunks large - about the same size as the bread cubes.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the bowl.
- Give the basil a couple of rough chops, and throw it in.
- Dice the mozzarella and add that to the bowl, too.
- Add the cooled bread cubes.
- Make the viniagrette in a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients.
- Pour the vinaigrette over the bread, veggies, basil, and cheese, and toss gently until well incorporated.
- Let sit for just a few minutes so the bread can soak in just a little of the vinaigrette.
- Add a little more salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, and serve immediately.