Panzanella is an Italian bread-salad - I love it. Its easy, fast, healthy and delicious. I titled this post "My Panzanella" because I definitely venture away from the traditional Italian bread salad (eek! I toast my bread!) to a dish inspired by fresh ingredients and different cultures. Maybe I should call it Italian/Greek/California farmer's market semi-panzanella.
Therefore, this recipe is more of a guideline rather than an actual defined step process as I make it different every time. While I think it is important to understand and acknowledge the tradition surrounding certain dishes, I don't like to tell anyone exactly how to cook or to pretend I always know exactly what is traditional versus not. I love to create and provide variations to recipes that might jazz up something you have been making for awhile. I think cooking is really a creative process and once you get a handle on the idea of a recipe, feel free to change it up!
I tend to cook with a lot of Mediterranean ingredients, so I often have the ingredients that I need for this salad, but if you are missing a few, don't worry! It is so versatile - you can use up vegetables or other ingredients that you have in your kitchen. Great as a side or main dish.
Here are the main ingredients I normally use:
- Baguette or other available high-quality bread, ripped into pieces, or roughly cubed (authentic panzanella calls for the use of stale bread, but if you are going to toast the bread, you can use either)
- Ripe plum tomatoes
- Seedless/English cucumber
- Feta cheese
- Kalamata/Greek olives, halved
- Diced chicken (added when using salad as a main dish)
- Prepare bread, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and add a dash of garlic powder; toast at 425 degrees until golden brown.
- Chop/cut/prepare all other ingredients to a similar size (the cheese should be a bit smaller dice because of its strong flavor). Note that the quantities don't matter so much, it all depends on what you like and how much salad you need.
- Put all ingredients (except bread) into a large bowl and season with kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste.
- Add a gulg of white balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil (also to taste). You can also add some fresh lemon juice here if you like; also, if you don't want to add a vinegar tang, just use the oil. Add bread into the bowl and lightly combine with other ingredients.
- You are finished! I like to serve it while the bread cubes are still warm and the rest of the salad is cold, makes a wonderful contrast.
- Other things you might want to add: chickpeas, red/yellow peppers, fresh basil, fontina cheese, zucchini, other marinated vegetables, red onion, grilled shrimp, bacon or pancetta, black olives...
Here are a few links to other panzanella recipes (some traditional and some alternative) from around the web: