Panzanella

by Marisa Olsen


Last evening, I decided to make Panzanella, an Italian vegetable and bread salad. It is reputed as a very light and flavorful summer dish. Although traditionally served as a side dish, I decided to simplify my meal and just serve as a main course. In the past, my father and I have used Ina Garten's recipe and love it for its simplicity and tastiness: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/panzanella-recipe/index.html.

That being said, I used Garten's recipe as a template and chopped tomatoes, orange and yellow peppers, cucumber, red onion and fresh basil. Then I whipped up a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic, a spoonful of capers, and s&p. For the breadcrumbs I used a fresh ciabatta loaf courtesy of Whole Food's recent 99cent special and sauteed the torn up pieces with olive oil, salt, and Herbs de Provence. I tossed all of the ingredients together and allowed them to sit and blend flavors. To make the meal more protein/main course worthy, I added marinated mozzarella balls.
As an added bonus, I served the leftover bread with a marinated antipasto from my favorite mercato, Monica's, and paired the meal with a 2006 Jean-Luc Colombo Cotes du Rhone. The meal proved to be delicious, relatively health- conscience ( I like to think of it as vegetable-based) and full of fresh summery flavor thanks to the basil and garlic.

If I were to do this over, I would have used a day-old loaf. I think using fresh loaf made the bread mushy, but it still managed to taste great nonetheless.