Monday, August 3, 2020

Summer Panzanella

  Ok this one is as simple as can be and it has summer written all over it. I was looking for something fresh and light, which is always a welcome break from the all-too-convenient heavy deep-fried take out that happens far too often. For me, summer always means tons of fresh tomatoes and basil, and this recipe is the perfect way to use them. The thing that makes it a Panzanella, and not just any old salad is the inclusion of the bread cubes. This was a way of using up stale bread because it soaks up all that delicious dressing as well as the juices from the tomatoes and cucumbers. The result is a fabulously fresh salad that hits all the right notes. And the bread makes it hearty enough to be a meal, all on its own. Full disclosure, this recipe is actually my tweaked version of the original recipe from Delish. What can I say? I wanted to add artichokes, avocado, and fresh mozzarella! Not sorry! Hmmm... I think maybe one of these days I might even add some grilled shrimp to it. Doesn't that sound amazing?
Now THAT says summer to me! LOVE.

1 large baguette or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
kosher salt
black pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large seedless cucumber, roughly chopped
2 pts cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion. chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 avocado, diced
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
balls of fresh mozzarella
1 bunch basil, torn

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss bread with 1/4 cup olive oil. Add bread to skillet and toast until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and honey. Season with salt and pepper.
To large bowl, add crispy bread, and remaining ingredients. Toss with dressing until evenly coated and season with more salt and pepper. Garnish with basil and serve.

TBH, I didn't even measure anything. For each vegetable, I didn't even look at the amounts... just cut up everything and threw it into the bowl. For the bread, I just cut it up, drizzled with olive oil until it was enough, then crisped it in a pan. I had a lot of bread, so I did it in two batches. And as always, if you like a lot of something, add a lot!
This recipe lends itself to any number of variations, not only with the ingredients but also with the amounts, as well. Feeding a big crowd? Use a lot of each ingredient! Only a few of you? Scale it back a bit. There's really no wrong way to do it. Be creative! Not a fan of red onion? Try chopped scallions instead, for a milder onion flavor. Want to use a different kind of vinegar? Go for it! Want to add a protein? DO IT! Or how about adding other veggies? Red or yellow bell peppers? Zucchini? Perfect!
You do you!

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