Since we seem to be having an endless Indian summer this year, it’s (sadly) still salad season at my house. I actually attempted to make butternut squash soup last night , and had to quit mid squash peeling because I was literally sweating from the preheating oven. Not ok, and not at all normal for mid October, even in Texas. So, back to the salads it is.
I love Panzanella because it’s great for using up bits and scraps and salvaging them into something wonderful – I almost always have stale bread and tomatoes that are just on the verge of death in the house. I also like it because it’s a different – some weeks I get so bored with my usual salads I would rather throw them away than eat another bowl of romaine. And although Panzanella isn’t really great for carb-watchers, this one is full of vitamin-rich vegetables, and you could use whole wheat bread for extra health points. Finally, it’s perfect for a make-ahead meal, you just leave the bread and dressing out of the salad, and toss together when you’re ready to serve – great for taking to new mommas when it’s still far too hot for soup or casseroles. See, I told you I really love Panzanella.
Greek Panzanella, adapted from Ina Garten’s How Easy is That?
3 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and pepper
6 cups of cubed bread (slightly stale french or ciabatta works best)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 bell pepper (I used half red, half yellow) chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cucumber, sliced to 1/4 inch then halved or quartered
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped red onion, depending on taste
8 ounces kalamata olives, halved or quartered
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cubed if from a block
For the vinaigrette:
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil
Place the red onions in a bowl of water and let them soak for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad – this will help their flavor mellow out a bit.
Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet – I use my cast iron for this. When hot, add the cubed bread, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook over medium low heat for 5 – 10 minutes, tossing regularly, until nicely golden. Take off the heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, mix the salad dressing. I like to put everything in a jar with a screw top lid and shake it up. You can carefully whisk it in a small bowl as well. Note – I like my dressings on the tart and healthier side – aka with less oil than normal. I use 1/4 cup – but if it’s too tart for your tastes, add a little more oil.
Combine the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, olives and feta in a very large bowl. Drain the onions, then add to bowl with the cooled croutons. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad, and toss lightly to combine. Let sit for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 to allow the flavors to marinate. Serve at room temperature.
*Note – if you want to make this in advance (as I most often do), combine everything but the croutons and dressing and refrigerate. You can leave the croutons in a plastic bag on the counter. When ready to serve, add the croutons and toss with the dressing.