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Panzanella: The ultimate summer salad

Panzanella

This is a delicious Italian bread salad which can be modified to your liking based on seasonal ingredients and vinegar preferences. Panzanella captures the essence of summer and the incredible tomatoes just off the vine. Its genesis is the idea of not wasting food and finding a purpose for your day-old bread which took work and time to make. As with all cooking, the fresher and better quality your ingredients, the more amazing your end result.

panzanella

Final presentation

Bread toasted in a saute pan

Vegetables and herbs tossed together. In this salad, I used a combination of Italian Basil from my garden and the Opal Basil from my CSA.

Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 1 French baguette or an equivalent textured boule cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tomatoes, ripe and cubed into one-inch dice
  • 1 English (hothouse) cucumber unpeeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, then sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 bell peppers, preferably different colors such as yellow or orange, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cubed into 1/4 inch dice or very thinly sliced
  • 15 – 20 large fresh basil leaves, chopped coarsely
  • 3 tablespoons capers drained, not rinsed
Vinaigrette
  • 2 large garlic cloves finely minced, about 2 teaspoons
  • 1 teaspoon good quality Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons vinegar of your liking (good choices are Champagne or Red Wine vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Procedure
  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan
  2. Add the cubed bread and sprinkle with the kosher salt
  3. Toast the bread in the oil over low heat, tossing and allowing to slightly brown, not burn. If needed, add more oil
  4. While bread is toasting, combine first vinaigrette ingredients and whisk thoroughly until the salt is dissolved. Begin to stream oil into the mixture whisking until emulsified, set aside
  5. In a large salad bowl combine the chopped vegetables, basil and capers
  6. Add the toasted bread
  7. Evenly pour the vinaigrette over the salad
  8. Toss thoroughly to allow the warm bread to soak up the vinaigrette and for all ingredients to be incorporated and evenly distributed
  9. Allow the salad to sit for about 40 minutes before serving, re-tossing from time-to-time to allow flavors to develop and meld
Serves 4 main course salads

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