A Refreshing and Seasonal Salad

Aug 8, 2017

August is the perfect month to enjoy Panzanella Salad!

Credit Jennifer Chandler

Originally invented by the Italians as a way to use up day-old bread, this salad is delicious no matter how old - or not - the bread is! The ideal summer salad, it’s a wonderful way to enjoy the juicy tomatoes and cucumbers that are currently at their peak.

The bread really makes this rustic salad.  You can use either fresh or day old bread.  As the bread absorbs some of the vinaigrette and tomato juices, the stale bread will soften up. The key though is to use a good artisan bread.  French bread or a country Italian loaf work great. Sometimes I like to jazz it up a bit and use a roasted garlic or rosemary bread. Most grocery stores now carry freshly baked or frozen artisan loaves.

To make the croutons, I like to grill the bread.  Grilling it imparts a delicious smokiness that adds an additional depth of flavor to the salad. If you don’t feel like firing up the grill, just toast the bread in an oven or in a skillet.

Tomatoes are the other key part of this salad. Cut your tomatoes into bite size wedges. I pour any juices left on the cutting board into the salad bowl for extra flavor.

I also add sliced cucumbers, red and yellow bell peppers, and fresh basil to my panzanella salad. A simple red wine vinaigrette brings it all together.

Enjoy this hearty salad as a main course. It also works well as a side serve alongside a piece of grilled chicken or fish. Either way it's a simple, crowd-pleasing recipe you can enjoy all summer long.

This is Jennifer Chandler with The Weekly Dish. Bon Appetit!

Panzanella Salad

For the croutons:

  • Vegetable oil, for the grates
  • 1/2 small loaf of French or Italian country bread (15 ounces), sliced 1-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Red Wine-Garlic Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

  • 1 large ripe tomato, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small cucumber, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper (1 large pepper)
  • 1 cup diced yellow bell pepper (1 large pepper)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (1 small onion)
  • 10 large basil leaves, sliced into thin strips

For the croutons:

  1. Preheat a clean grill to medium-high with the lid closed for 8 to 10 minutes. Lightly brush the grates with oil.
  2. Brush the bread with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and cut each slice into 1-inch cubes.

For the Red Wine-Garlic Vinaigrette:

  1. In a small bowl whisk together the garlic and vinegar. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream, whisking to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the salad:

  1. In a large salad bowl toss together the tomato, cucumber, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, red onion, and basil. Add the croutons and the vinaigrette to taste. Toss gently. Set aside to allow the croutons to soak up the vinaigrette, 10 to 20 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6.

Cooking Tip: A quick trick to cut basil in to thin strips, also known as a chiffonade, is to place clean leaves in a pile, roll the leaves lengthwise like a cigarette, and thinly slice the roll crosswise.

Printed with permission from Simply Grilling by Jennifer Chandler.