The perfect taste of summer! What do you do with yesterday’s stale bread besides feed the ducks? Make Summer Panzanella Salad of course. Originating in Italy, Panzanella salad is prepared with fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, red onions, herbs, fresh mozzarella, and day-old sourdough bread.
Day Old Bread…Not Just for Ducks
When I was growing up, we always saved the crusts and heels of our bread for the ducks to feed at Lake Ralphine in Howarth Park. Those were happy memories. But now, when I have leftover, day-old sourdough bread, I either make breadcrumbs for my meatballs, or if it is summertime and the tomatoes are falling off the vine, I prepare Summer Panzanella Salad.
Truthfully, I wasn’t too drawn to the idea of a bread salad. I thought the bread would be soggy, and soggy bread reminds me of my first fail in the kitchen as a young bride — still an inside joke with my hubby. How was I to know that soaking bread for french toast for too long would make super soggy french toast? I had never made it before. Honestly, I thought that marinating the bread in the spiced egg mixture would make an impression on my new groom. It did. Just not the one I was going for. Note to new cooks: don’t soak your french toast. Dip. Dip. That’s it. My poor, desperate-to-please-me husband put on his best supportive face and choked it down.
All that to say, the cubes are toasted in olive oil and salt and pepper to give it just the right amount of crunch. Not only does this prevent total soggage, but it creates this perfect, crunchy outer crust yet laps in all the juicy bits of tomato juice, vinegar, and olive oil to create this burst of tangy, crunchy goodness. It is AMAZING! So try it. Try it on a night that is just too hot to slave over a stove. You can thank me later.
Simple Salad…Best Ingredients
The trick to a delicious Panzanella salad is the ingredients. Because it is a simple salad, make sure your ingredients shine. This is not the time to skimp. If you don’t make your own sourdough, find a good quality artisan loaf. Buy a few and store some in the freezer. I guarantee you will be making this often so it will be good to have the sourdough on hand.
Summer is also a time for salads and fresh tomatoes and basil. Make sure to get a good quality olive oil, like Kasandrinos Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling and vinegar that has a depth of flavor that is smooth and aromatic. The different flavor notes in good vinegar will bring out the flavors of your produce instead of dominating them. Acid League is an amazing company that created a line of live cultured products so you get the benefits of raw, fermented, probiotics. They have a delicious Cabernet Port which is a cross between red wine and balsamic vinegar that I use for my Greek salad, but for this recipe, Acid League Strawberry Rose Vinegar is my favorite. It pairs great with summer salads. Acid League is the perfect site for the creative cook.
Lastly, if you haven’t tried my Preserved Lemons, now is the time to check out my post. Well, actually if you wanted it now, for this recipe, it is a little too late since it has to ferment for 3-4 weeks on your counter. But, you may still have time to get started if you want to try them in this recipe before the summer runs out. Trust me. You will use Preserved Lemons in everything all year round. Traditionally, preserved lemons are used in Moroccan cooking in tagine recipes, pilafs, stews, roast chicken, dressings, and sauces. It adds a depth of flavor to almost anything where you would use lemon zest.
- 1 loaf sourdough or chiabatta bread, cut into bite-sized cubes
- 2 T olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 red onion sliced thinly
- 1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes halved or whichever tomatoes you have cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 English cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pited
- 16 ounces fresh mozzarella log, cubed
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, torn
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (my favorite is Kasandrinos organic extra-virgin)
- 3 T vinegar (I love Acid League Strawberry Rose Vinegar but a red wine vinegar will work too.)
- 1 T chopped fresh garlic
- 1 T preserved lemon rind (optional but Oh, man!)
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt (I love using Maldon sea salt flakes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°
Cube bread and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake on a baking sheet for 7-10 minutes. You want the bread to be crispy on the edges
Prepare your dressing by whisking together all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl
Add the bread, onion, tomato, cucumber, olives, basil, and mozzarella and toss to evenly coat
Allow the salad to rest for a few minutes so the bread can soak up a bit of the dressing and juices
This is amazing served alone for a light dinner or as a side to grilled chicken
Your family will be asking if you can have it again tomorrow!
Perfect Summer Menu
Summer Panzanella Salad pairs perfectly with our favorite Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup and Summer Sunshine Shrub for the quintessential summer dinner. Finish it off with a Blueberry Peach Galette and you just took a tour of Europe without having to go through the security check at the airport. You’re welcome:) Manja Manja!
Check Out These Other Related Posts:
Kasandrinos Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil– high-quality, family-owned, organic, single-origin olive oil
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes– a great salt flake for finishing a dish (not for baking)
Acid League live-cultured vinegars