One of my favorite summer meals is panzanella. If you’re not familiar with this little dish, it is simply a bowlful of seasonal vegetables with homemade croutons or bread and a dressing of some sort. And it is wonderful. This fresh version with tomatoes and peppers is one that I make frequently.
Today I wanted to create something just as pleasing, but a bit different. I wanted to be both delicious and satisfying as well as be loaded with vegetables. I know I’ve preached this before, but eating vegetables is key to keeping me feeling good, so I really try to pack them in throughout the day. One of the vegetables that I wanted to rely on for this receipe is eggplant. Why eggplant? Well, because I can’t stop buying it at the farmers market– it’s just so darn gorgeous. I have a weird relationship with this vegetable. I don’t generally love the flavor, and at times I find the texture to be a bit…unique. I needed to find a way to appreciate it, aside from the aesthetic, because admiring its beauty while it sits unused on my countertop is a bit wasteful. And the other recipes I’ve tried have just seemed ho-hum or so loaded with other unhealthy things that it kind of defeated the point of eating healthy. So that’s why eggplant.
Thankfully, not only did I find a way to use it, I found a way to actually enjoy it! This panzanella is everything that I wanted it to be. Using small globe-like eggplants worked well in this recipe. The seeds are smaller, which appeals to me. The vegetables became tender and delicious when roasted. Tossing them with homemade croutons, a red wine vinaigrette, and feta was a beautiful combination. The feta melted slightly against the warm vegetables. It was magical. The smashed garlic cloves become soft and buttery. Roast whatever vegetables you have on hand– it will work. Change up the cheese, if you want. Goat or ricotta salata will work well, too. Enjoy!
The Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Panzanella with Eggplant
about 10 small eggplants, diced
1-2 red peppers, cut into bite-sized pieces
handful of small cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 hot pepper, optional
olive oil, salt, and pepper
1/4 – 1/2 baguette, cubed
Feta, goat, or ricotta salata cheese crumbles, to garnish
For the Vinaigrette:
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
about 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375°F. On a large baking sheet with parchment paper, toss the eggplant, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and garlic cloves together with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, toss the cubed baguette with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread on another baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake on the bottom rack until just crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
Make the vinaigrette by mixing the garlic clove, mustard, thyme leaves, and red wine vinegar together. Then whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
When the vegetables are done roasting, mix them together with the homemade croutons. Then toss everything with the red wine vinaigrette. Re-season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve with feta crumbles on top and even a few more thyme leaves. Enjoy!
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