What a great way to end the summer season! On the menu this week is one of my favorite Italian salads. I’ll be swaying a bit from tradition and adding my personal twist to this recipe, giving this salad and appetizer additional flavor and versatility! This vegetarian dish will have all your dinner guests wanting more!
While living in Italy I was taught that panzanella originated from the countryside and was considered a peasant dish. Because the peasants would let no food go to waste, they found a way to utilized stale bread in a delicious way. Rock-hard bread was reconstituted with water, oil, and vinegar to soften it up and was then combined with summer tomatoes, red onions, basil, and cucumbers. This light yet filling dish is often served for dinner during the hot Italian summer evenings. It’s quick to make and satisfying to all.
I find the traditional recipe gives the bread a soggy texture. While I don’t mind this consistency to eat, many others are turned off by the “sogginess” of this salad. I have put my own personal twist on this recipe, combining tradition and modern techniques and flavors. I either grill the bread on the bbq or toast it in the oven, and cut it up and to make crunchy croutons. I toss the croutons with the rest of the ingredients and serve this delicious salad as my unique interpretation of this Italian classic. I also like to serve it as an appetizer by making the salad mix to start – with the addition of seasonal, grilled veggies and small mozzarella balls. To serve, rub the grilled bread with a piece of raw garlic across the coarse, charred surface, and top with the delicious salad mix. Buonissimo!
This salad can be made year round, just as long as the ingredients are seasonal. Grilling fruit, such as watermelon or stone fruit, like a grilled peach, is a wonderful way to give this salad additional summer flavor and a sweet kick.
- 12 slices ciabatta bread, cut ¼ inch thick slices
- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, washed, cut into halves
- ½ english cucumbers, washed, small dice
- 1 red onion, cut into ¼ inch rounds
- 1 red bell pepper, washed and seeded, cut into 3 large pieces
- 1 yellow bell pepper, washed and seeded, cut into 3 large pieces
- 10 large basil leaves
- 1 cup small Mozzarella balls, drained, cut into halves
- 2 cloves garlic, whole. cleaned
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the Bull BBQ on medium-high heat. Remove any residue and wipe the grill grates with a well oiled rag to prevent any sticking.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
- In a large bowl, place the tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and mozzarella balls, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar mix. Set aside.
- Brush both sides of the onion and bell peppers with olive oil. Place them on the grill and allow them to cook for 5 minutes, until char marks form. Turn them over and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove them from the grill and set aside to cool. To finish, cut the peppers into a small dice, roughly chop the onions, and add to the tomato mixture.
- Remove any residue and wipe the grill grates with a well oiled rag to prevent any sticking. Brush the sliced ciabatta bread with oil on both sides. Toast until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes each side. To finish, rub a piece of raw garlic across the surface of the grilled bread.
- To serve, toss the tomato mixture incorporating all the ingredients. Top each slice of grilled ciabatta bread with a heaping spoonful and serve on a colorful platter as an appetizer to your dinner guests. Enjoy!
♥ Chef Amy