It’s called a bread salad, but it’s really about using late-summer fresh tomatoes in a healthy side dish. Here’s how to make panzanella bread salad.
As the summer draws to a close, I keep thinking about those sad, bland grocery store tomatoes that will soon be our only option. But for now we still have beautiful summer tomatoes, and I look for as many ways as possible to enjoy them. This delicious panzanella bread salad is one of my favorite ways to use tomatoes, regardless of what type: cherry, an heirloom, a Roma or a Big Boy tomato.
Make this side dish about 30 minutes or so in advance of serving so that the crusty bread has a chance to soak up the vinaigrette a bit.
Notes for enjoying your panzanella bread salad:
• Using parchment paper makes clean up easier, and food crisps better.
• Let the bread cool completely before putting any extras in an airtight container for later. These make great salad croutons.
• Any extra vinaigrette can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Take it out 30 minutes before using to let the oil come to room temperature.
- FOR THE SALAD:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ of a thick crusty bread loaf, cut in 1-inch cubes (a baguette works great)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Fresh herbs of your choice, optional
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes (or 2 cups of cherry tomatoes cut in half)
- 1 cucumber, cut in half, then sliced ½ inch thick (leave skin on; it is nutritious)
- ½ red onion, very thinly sliced
- 20 basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained*
- 2 ounces Feta cheese, coarsely chopped
- FOR THE VINAIGRETTE:
- 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- Mix the cubed bread with the olive oil in a bowl and gently toss. Sprinkle the bread with garlic powder. You can also mix in fresh, finely chopped herbs such as oregano, Italian parsley, rosemary and thyme.
- Bake the bread at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for approximately 30 minutes, or until the bread cubes are crisp and golden.
- While the bread is baking, prepare the vinaigrette by whisking together all of the vinaigrette ingredients. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, basil, capers and cheese.
- Add the baked bread cubes and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Be sure to drizzle lightly, toss and taste. You can always add more vinaigrette, but you can’t take it away once it is poured. The idea is to lightly dress the salad so the fresh vegetable flavors shine through. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve, or let the salad sit for half an hour for the vinaigrette to soak in to the bread and vegetables.
Stacey Kendrick, MS, is a health educator with more than 20 years of experience in wellness and population health. She is a mother to two adult daughters. In her free time, she teaches healthy cooking classes, runs, gardens and enjoys backyard bonfires.