What’s for dinner? Panzanella

What’s for dinner? Panzanella

The Don and I really like a big salad for dinner. It was warm enough on the last day of summer to have dinner on our porch so a big salad sounded like a terrific idea. I decided to make Panzanella — which is really bread salad.

Panzanella is chock full of fresh vegetables that serve as an excellent excuse to eat the tasty sour dough bread cubes that are toasted in olive oil with a sprinkling of kosher salt. We love it and it is a meal in itself.

The original recipe came from one of my favorite Food Network stars, Ina Garten…but I’ve revised it a bit to fit our tastes and the way I like to cook. Here goes:

To save on dishes, make the entire salad (beginning with the dressing) in the bowl you’ll be serving it in. You’ll need a big bowl.

Step 1: Make the vinaigrette by whisking these ingredients together in your salad bowl:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
Note: you can use all olive oil if you want
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(In this picture, the vinaigrette is made and I’ve put the chopped vegetables on top…it’s already looking yummy!)

Step 2: Give the vegetables a rough chop (you want chunks) and mix with the vinaigrette
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
1 or 2 cucumbers (depends on size) unpeeled, seeded, & sliced 1/2″ thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained (these really make the salad – do not omit)

Step 3: Toast the croutons

Cut 1 small loaf French bread (I use sour dough bread) into 1″ cubes — you should have about 6 cups.

In a large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add 1/2 the bread cubes and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook over medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes until nicely browned.

Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining bread cubes, adding more oil if necessary.

Step 4: Mix and eat!

Stir the bread cubes into the vegetable/vinaigrette mixture. Serve immediately. In this picture I’ve spooned the bread cubes on top of the salad and am ready to mix.

Original recipe says it serves 12 but The Don and I can eat most of this ourselves, probably because I don’t make anything else to go with it.
There may be a bit leftover and it’s quite tasty the next day.