Just in case I haven’t been clear, I LOVE the colorful array vegetables available this time of season. For today’s recipe, I put together one of my favorite beautiful, delicious salads. Panzanella is an Italian salad that usually consists of soaked stale bread and tomatoes. My version includes a greater variety of ingredients, and a little more crunch from the bread. Now a purist may say that it isn’t panzanella, but when it tastes this good, why quibble over the name? Panzanella it is, and it’s marvelous.
This was the first week that I finally found red peppers at the farmers’ market. My kids and I love them as a snack. Here I used mini sweet multi-colored peppers. Cute and tasty! Since fresh cucumbers and red onions are plentiful now, I added those as well. For the cheese, I used (surprise!) ricotta salata. Yes, it’s my go-to addition, but the creamy texture and saltiness work perfectly in so many dishes. It seems I’m always poking around for another piece of it with every bite. The ricotta salata also makes this salad a bit more substantial– we ate it as a light meal rather than a starter.
Of course the star of the salad is the crusty bread and red wine vinaigrette. I like to tear my bread rather than cut it– more dressing seems to get into the crevices. I could eat the bread and dressing alone, which I guess that’s the point of the salad— it’s nice to get some healthy vegetables in there, too. When assembling the salad try to keep most of the vegetables relatively the same size. I love this combination of flavors– it’s one of my favorite things to eat during the summer. It makes a nice, light meal that I find myself eating pretty much every day for lunch.
The Recipe: Panzanella
(The measurements are vague — make as big of a salad as you want. You will have plenty of dressing.)
2 large cucumbers, chopped
2 cups mini multi-colored peppers, chopped (or 1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped)
6 Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 mini – red onions, thinly sliced (or 1 small red onion)
handful of fresh garden lettuce, torn
12-15 basil leaves, whole
1/3 cup cubed ricotta salata cheese (feta can be substituted)
1 baguette, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
To Toast the Bread: Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss the torn bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Put onto a baking sheet and bake until the bread chunks are golden brown and have a nice crunch to them — about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
To Make the Vinaigrette: In a medium-sized bowl, mix the vinegar, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and mustard. Using a whisk, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil, whisking all the while. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
To Assemble the Salad: In a large salad bowl, add the garden lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, ricotta salata cheese, red onion, basil, and toasted bread. Pour some of the dressing onto the salad. Toss. Let sit for a few minutes before eating so the dressing has a chance to soak into the bread a bit. Add more dressing, salt, and pepper, if necessary. Enjoy!
I hope you are enjoying your summer produce as much as we are. This is a beautiful time of year! Have a great weekend. Take Care.
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