Panzanella Salad

Straight from the veggie garden to the salad bowl, Panzanella is the quintessential summer salad. Juicy homegrown tomatoes, cukes, bell pepper, and basil soak up chunks of crusty Italian bread for one of the most delightful dishes of the season.

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella is a dinner-sized salad – practically a meal in itself, with crusty bread, cheese, veggies, and olives, it makes a delightful dinner on a hot summer night!
This Mediterranean salad usually consists of crusty Tuscan bread and tomatoes in addition to fresh garden vegetables. Veggies can include bell peppers of any color, cucumbers, and onions. Garlic, capers, black olives, and anchovies are added to the salad for extra punch. Use good quality olive oil and white or red wine vinegar. 
Panzanella originated in Italy was a good way for Italian cooks to make a meal out of stale bread and homegrown vegetables. This Mediterranean salad is another example of the green, white, and red colors of the Italian flag, which are frequently represented in Italian cuisine. The written records of Panzanella go back centuries. In the 1500s, a poem by the famous artist Bronzino described the salad. At that time, the tomato was quite a few years from being introduced into the Italian kitchen, so the ingredients were limited to cucumber, onion, basil, arugula, and bread. Just like yesteryear, practically every modern family has some amount of stale bread lying around the house, but we like to use fresh Ciabatta, slightly toasted to give the salad the freshest taste possible. We also have added feta cheese – a flavor that maintains the Mediterranean flair but adds a little more substance to the meal.
Servings 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

Salad Fixin’s:

  • 6 one-inch Ciabatta or crusty Italian bread cut into one-inch cubes
  • 1 head lettuce (romaine, or baby leaf lettuces)
  • ½ bunch basil red leafy basil is especially pretty in this salad, but traditional green works
  • 3 large tomatoes ( Use only the freshest – ripest tomatoes for this salad! ) any combination of red, orange and yellow
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • ½ cucumber peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick slices, then quartered
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
  • 1/2 cup antipasto olives Kalamata or spiced Italian olives, drained
  • 1 tablespoon capers drained

Dressing – Mix well and store in a jar until ready to use.

  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic minced (use more if you love garlic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper more if you like
  • 1 tablespoon juice from tomatoes used in salad

Instructions

To Assemble Salad:

  • Place bread squares in the toaster oven at low temperature for about 30 minutes, or until crusty. Remove and cool to room temperature.
  • Place bread in the bottom of a large salad bowl and layer the rest of the ingredients on top, beginning with lettuce, followed by cucumber, bell pepper, basil, feta, olives, and capers.
  • Pour dressing over top and let drain down to the bread. Gently toss and serve.

Notes

Can simply use stale bread, cut into cubes with or without first toasting.
Use only the freshest and perfectly ripe tomatoes for this salad, because the fresh tomato juice dripping are what coat the bread and make it so yummy!

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