Friday, April 22, 2011

"Panzanella" Salad - a great weekday go-to for any season

Panzanella Salad is something that Nick got me into when he and I started dating.  When we would make a salad to go with dinner at home, every time the meal ended and we were just sitting and talking we always picked around the lettuce and went straight for the croutons, carrots and cucumbers (who needs dessert?!)  After awhile, Nick enlightened me by introducing me to salads made without lettuce - who knew?  Turns out, he was well versed in the Panzanella salad universe because he made these quite a bit in college.  Overtime, this has become one of our go-to dishes when we want a light but satisfying meal.

Almost Ready!
Traditional Panzanella salad has stale bread soaked in water and squeezed dry, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper - if the Italians were feeling crazy they would add onions and basil.  I've also seen recipes with raw bell peppers.  Not being a fan of a lot of these ingredients, we just basically took the idea of stale bread and a lettuce-free salad and ran with it!

To start, you take a nice loaf of bread - any type will work, so just grab your favorite or whatever happens to be on sale.  It helps if the loaf is day-old or somewhat stale, though you could certainly make this with a fresh loaf.

Hearty Loaf of Bread
 Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes.

Place the bread into a pan over medium heat that has some olive oil in it and mix it around so that each cube is coated with oil.  Let the bread toast in the pan until golden.  For this particular version of panzanella, we decided to give the dish a Mediterranean spin, so we chopped up some rosemary that we had in the fridge and heated it up in the oil before adding the bread.

Warming and Toasting
While the bread is toasting, cut up the assorted veggies you would like to add to the salad.  Really, the sky is the limit here.  For this evenings meal we went with cucumbers and celery. 

Chopped and ready
In a large bowl (the serving bowl if handy) mix together the various components for your dressing.  This dressing consisted of lemon-infused olive oil, champagne vinegar, minced garlic, mustard, salt and pepper.

After mixing it all together, go ahead and add the veggies, toasted bread and anything else you would like to have in your dish.  For protein we used cannellini beans, which offer a great texture. We also had some leftover crumbled goat cheese in the fridge, so that got tossed in the bowl.

Dinner is Ready!
This really is a tasty, filling salad that is perfect for a warm summer evening, but also could easily be transformed into a dish more appropriate for whatever season you happen to be in.  Whether you have a bunch of random things left in the fridge or you are not sure what to do with some CSA spoils, this is a great way to make it all work together.


  1. Oh I love a good panzanella salad. Sometimes I add chickpeas and green beans. Other times -- if it's the summer -- I add fresh tomatoes, cucumber and basil. So many ways to make this salad delicious. Yum!

  2. I LOVE the ingredients in a normal panzanella in the summertime. I think the ingredients you used are perfect right now when ripe, delicious tomatoes are nowhere to be found.

  3. Panzanella salad is the best! Your version looks fantastic!

  4. My kids would totally dig this. They love having croutons in their salads, but a whole salad made of bread bits would put them over the moon!


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