Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella originated in Tuscany, and is basically a salad of tomatoes and stale bread (lots of other variations abound).  When I first discovered it I thought, "not for me, I don't want to eat soggy bread and vegetables!".  However, I decided to try Ina Garten's recipe and it transformed my opinion! This is my adaption of that recipe, and it is my absolute favorite late-summer salad.  It is full of colorful summertime veggies, tossed with toasted croutons and a flavorful vinaigrette.  I hope you will give it a try; I know you will love it!

4 cups of 1-inch cube of stale, dense baguette (sourdough or Italian)

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 vine-ripened tomatoes, a mix of colors, Heirlooms are my favorite, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large English cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 each, red and yellow bell pepper, seeded, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 small red onion, sliced paper thin

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly-chopped

2 Tablespoons drained capers (optional)

Preheat oven to 400-degrees.

Toss bread cubes with olive oil and the 3/4 teaspoon salt until evenly coated.  Spread out on a sheet pan.  Bake for 12-18 minutes, checking periodically after 10 minutes, or until crisp and browned.  Remove and set aside to cool while preparing the rest of the salad.

In a large bowl place the fresh oregano, garlic, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, black pepper and whisk well.  While whisking, stream in the olive oil and mix until creamy.  Add the prepared vegetables and toss well.  Add the bread cubes and toss well.  Let sit for about thirty minutes before serving.

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