|Panzanella salad may not be a traditional southern dish, but it sure fits in with our hot summer days and you don't even have to turn the oven on for homemade croutons - just grill your bread instead!|
Panzanella Salad on RomaineYeah, yeah... I know. Panzanella salad isn't southern and it usually isn't served with lettuce either, but I like mine that way so that is how I eat it. I just mix up the panzanella - a salad that was probably originally born out of the need to use up stale bread and whatever else happened to be in abundance in the garden - and then I spoon it over crisp romaine lettuce. The early panzanella salads probably did not even utilize tomatoes, but these days, it is pretty much built around the two - bread and tomatoes - and then mixed with whatever fresh garden veggies are on hand.
Panzanella was not a salad I grew up with and the first time I tried it, I made the one that uses soaked bread that you then squeeze out and tear. Not a fan. But, toast the bread and it's a whole 'nother story! Take that up a level and infuse that bread with garlic olive oil, and it's a real winner.
You can really make this salad your own with a mixture of whatever vegetables you have on hand, or like, but some veggies you might include are red onion, red, yellow, orange or green bell peppers, cucumber, squash or zucchini. Fresh mozzarella is a great add-in, so throw some cubes in if you happen to have some on hand, tear in some fresh basil leaves if you like, add some chopped garlic, and maybe even some pitted kalamata olives. Some people even like to include capers and anchovies to add a level of saltiness.
Recipe: Panzanella Salad on Romaine©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 30 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings
- 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 cup of red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Reserved garlic (from croutons)
- 2 pounds of fresh garden tomatoes, cut into chunks
- 1/2 of a red onion, sliced
- 2 bell peppers, yellow, red or green, seeded and chopped
- 1 large English or other seedless cucumber, washed but unpeeled and chopped
- 4 ounces of fresh mozzarella, cubed
- 1/2 cup of pitted, kalamata olives, chopped
- Handful of fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained, optional
- Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
- Homemade Garlic Croutons
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare the croutons. Set aside to cool.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the tomatoes and onion, toss and let sit for 30 minutes. Add the peppers and cucumber, toss and refrigerate until ready to serve.
About 15 minutes before serving, add in the croutons, mozzarella, olives, basil and capers, and toss in the accumulated juices.
If the entire salad is not going to be eaten at once, use only as many croutons as needed, reserving the remainder for the next serving. Store leftover croutons at room temperature, in a zipper storage bag or other airtight container.
Tip: Too hot to heat up the oven for croutons? Toast your bread on the grill instead!
Variation: Use leftover homemade cornbread or make a fresh batch in a pan and allow it to go stale. Cut into squares, place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Toss with the seasoned oil and return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until croutons are toasted.
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