Wednesday, February 3, 2016


I have two salads I go back to time and time again during hot summer months (and a few times non-summer just because I crave them).  Panzanella is one of them.  Had I read the recipe before tasting it, I never would made it.  For the most part, I'm not a big sweet pepper fan.  But all of this comes together so deliciously.  Originally posted June 25, 2011.

OK, let me just say first of all.....this is my FAVORITE summer salad.  And who'd a thunk it?  Bread Salad?  Really???  With a bunch of peppers?  Really???  Oh, yes!!!

I could eat this salad everyday during these horrid hot, humid days of summer.   And so weird!  I'm not a big sweet pepper fan, but this all comes together so beautifully.  I do love cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, basil, and bread.  And these croutons just put it over over the top.   I never in a million years would have tried this recipe, but, once again, working at a (different) restaurant in Minnesota, I came in one morning to find the leftovers of a special that Char had run.  I think I ate them all.  And this was after the croutons had become all soggy.  But the flavor was just incredible.  Char was a big fan of Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) and this recipe came from one of her cookbooks.  She's (Ina Garten) done a variation on this recipe calling it Greek Panzanella where she substitues Kalamata olives for the capers, and adds feta cheese, but we love this salad so much as it is that we've never tried that version.

Now for me, the secret is the croutons.  I will only use Panera Bread's baguette.  If you don't have a Panera Bread near you, please use a high-quality baguette.  I make a lot of croutons for Caesar Salad using bagels and then baking them, but the process here is completely different and results in a dramatically different crouton.  I cover the bottom of a hot Dutch Oven with olive oil, then add salt, then dump in the baguette cubes and stir quickly to coat the bread with the salted olive oil.  It takes a while (maybe 15-20 minutes?) on a medium/medium-high heat to brown the bread cubes, stirring very often.

Also, this recipe makes a nice batch.  Probably 4 entree-servings.  So, since there are just two of us, I'll dice all of the vegetables, but will keep the croutons separate so I dress them then toss them with the vegetables shortly before serving time.  I'll pour the dressing on the croutons (a heavy hand so the extra dressing will also coat the vegetables) about 10 minutes before serving so the croutons will soften a bit.  Then I just keep the diced vegetables in an air-tight container and the dry croutons in a baggie until I'm ready for the next batch.

I really hope you'll try this incredibly wonderful summer salad.  Not only is it visually appealing, you'll be looking forward to the leftovers!

PANZANELLA (approximately 4 large servings)

Cube one baguette.  In Dutch Oven, add olive oil to coat the bottom and add kosher salt.  Add bread cubes and continue to stir until croutons are browned.


1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lenghwise
1 English cucumber or 5-6 pickling cucumbers (I like to strip four strips of skin, then cut the cuke into four lenghtwise cuts, then dice the cuke into about 1/4-1/2" cubes)
1 red, orange, and yellow sweet pepper, diced (I like to cut pieces small/large enough to get a piece of pepper, tomato, cucumber, crouton, onion, caper on each fork-full!)
A couple of semi-thick slices of red onion, diced
about 20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp capers


1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup EVOO

When read to serve, mix all of the vegetables with the croutons and vinaigrette.  If serving at different times, keep the vegetables and croutons separate so the croutons don't become soggy, then dress the croutons and then mix the vegetables in.  Let me know if you try it and love it as much as we do!

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