Bread Salad, you are a delight. Panzanella is like cooking for dummies. It’s a traditional Tuscan dish that incorporates day-old bread and tomatoes and is extra popular in the summer at our house. I love this salad because it’s one of those no-brainer, stupid-easy meals that is beyond delicious and so easy to manipulate. Last Thursday, after briefly celebrating my half-birthday during happy hour, Adam and I had panzanella on the balcony– a most perfect night indeed.
Here’s the thing with panzanella: it’s completely open to interpretation. What’s fresh? What looks extra pretty at the market? Jonesing for grilled chicken? Is it meatless Monday? Your options are only limited by your creativity. Isn’t that something they tell you in grade school art class? It applies here, too.
As for dressings, I went with a homemade white wine vinaigrette, but any oil-based salad sauce will do. My only word of advice is to avoid an overly aggressive balsamic vinaigrette as the flavor may be a bit too much for your delicate vegetables.
We usually use fresh veggies straight from the crisper but last week something got into us and we lit up the grill for a good old time. Note: it was a total game changer. I loved the additional char flavor. As Emeril would say, BAM!
Like I said, feel free to go with what looks good in your market, but below is a loose interpretation of what we put together last week. Keep in mind when you’re prepping that everything should be about the same size. You don’t want tiny shredded carrots and giant whole mushrooms all in the same bowl. Also, we have a nifty little pan that we put on the grill to cook already cut up veggies, so feel free to chop them after you grill them if you want to start with whole vegetables. Enjoy!
4 slices rustic bread, crusts removed (about 2 generous cups), torn into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
pancetta or bacon (about 4 slices)
1/2 a medium-sized zucchini
1/2 a medium-sized yellow pepper
8-10 stalks asparagus, woody ends removed
3/4 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/3 cup garbanzo beans
For the dressing
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
tiny blob of dijon mustard, depending on your taste (an official measurement…)
salt and pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Place bread on a baking tray and coat with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for about 7-8 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until slightly brown and crispy. You’re looking for crouton consistency. Transfer to large serving bowl.
- Grill zucchini, peppers, and asparagus over a medium to medium-high grill for about 10 minutes, or until charred in spots and slightly tender. Add chopped grilled vegetables to the serving bowl.
- Meanwhile cook pancetta or bacon over medium-high heat, adding tomatoes in for the last two minutes until they’re softened. Remove from heat and add to serving bowl. Add garbanzo beans to serving bowl.
- In a small bowl combine lemon juice, vinegar, parsley, dijon mustard and salt and pepper and whisk together. Slowly add in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Pour dressing over bread, vegetables, beans and pancetta. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, or until bread has softened. Stir the mixture a few times to make sure all components are saturated.
- Garnish with healthy dabs of goat cheese, a smattering of pine nuts and extra parsley if desired. Basil would be lovely here as well.
As for pairings, The Book recommends a dry rosé for salads in general. I can confirm this is a lovely pairing indeed. The goat cheese is asking for a Sancerre (which is this month’s pick for wine school), though if you add chicken you’re probably looking for a French or New World Chardonnay. For those interested. sparkling water makes for a truly fabulous (and refreshing) pairing.