There is NOTHING “classic” about my panzanella. If you’re hoping for a traditional, made-like-a-little-Italian grandmother, panzanella, this won’t be your recipe. But, if you are looking for out-of-this-world delicious, incredibly simple and quick to prepare for a homey get-together with family or friends, you just hit the jackpot!
Classic panzanella is all about the bread and a fabulous vinaigrette to dress it. Panzanella is made from chunks of hearty, chewy bread (usually day old or stale) mixed with variations of fresh vegetables, herbs, mozzarella or even olives and tossed with an olive oil and vinegar dressing. The exact ingredients and variety of bread seem to vary by region, in Italy. When I prepare it, the bread is still the main ingredient, but I’m more than just a little picky about how I get that bread ready to be salad.
Bread, dipped in delicious vinaigrettes made with high quality olive oils and vinegars from O Olive Oil, is sublime. But soggy, mushy bread, no matter how perfect the flavor, is a huge textural problem for me. I just can’t do it. So, the bread needs to be prepared to absorb flavor and still retain it’s texture – toasted and crusty outside, soft and wonderful inside. This recipe allows me to do just that and enjoy delicious panzanella, albeit a slightly less than conventional version. I think you’re going to love it!
You’ll remember that I shared my first taste of O Olive Oils and Vinegars with you, just a few short days ago; and we took a little journey through the Italy in my mind. 🙂 We talked about the recipe contest being sponsored by eRecipeCards.com and O Olive Oil; and how you would be able to give me a boost with my contest entry, soon. If you haven’t done it, yet, I hope you’ll stop by eRecipeCards.com and register for your own free recipe box. You’ll be able to save a personal file of fabulous recipes from bloggers all around the net; and more than that, you’ll be able to vote for my recipe in this contest, Rustic Panzanella, by adding it to your recipe box. You can read more about the contest and entries, as well as discover all the uniquely delicious products O has to offer, by following them on Facebook.
I actually struggled with the decision to enter this recipe. I created two extraordinary dishes with the O Roasted Garlic Olive Oil I reviewed (I’ll definitely be sharing the second, a bit later.). Which to enter? It was hard to decide. I even noticed, this evening, that one of the other entrants posted a panzanella recipe on the erecipecards.com site, just before mine. Great minds think alike, I guess! But, my version is different enough, that I think it will have great appeal to a wide audience, who may have never tried panzanella before, or perhaps thought they wouldn’t like it. The point of this contest is to showcase O Olive Oils and Vinegars and make them the star of the dish. That’s why I’m making Rustic Panzanella my official entry. O Roasted Garlic Olive Oil and O White Balsamic Vinegar meld into a blissfully flavorful vinaigrette. 🙂 So, let’s go strolling, again, and enjoy the tranquility of shady olive groves and fragrant vineyards, right at our own kitchen tables!
- 1 loaf French or Italian Bread, (day old is not only fine, but best)
- 2 - 3 Tablespoons O Roasted Garlic Olive Oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 3 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
- 2 cucumbers
- 1 small red onion
- fresh salad greens (I used Tango lettuce, Red Romaine and spinach, all fresh from our garden.)
- ⅔ cup O Roasted Garlic Olive Oil
- ½ cup O White Balsamic Vinegar
- Roughly cut or tear the loaf of bread into large, but bite-sized, chunks.
- Toss the bread with 2-3 Tablespoons of O Garlic Olive Oil until the bread pieces are evenly coated.
- Sprinkle the bread with salt and toss again, to distribute it evenly.
- At this point you have a couple options. You can toast the bread chunks in a cast iron skillet on your cook top (which is what I did) OR you can spread them evenly on a cookie sheet and bake them at 425 degrees to brown and toast them, turning them about ½ way through the process (which is what I will do, in the future.) Because I used an entire loaf of bread, the skillet was full and it was difficult to get all the pieces evenly browned. In the oven they will toast evenly, and have more uniformly toasted, and crisp outer crusts. So, it's more a matter of texture preference. In the skillet, your bread will have more uncrisped edges that will absorb vinaigrette quickly, resulting in super soft or even soggy bread. In the oven, at high heat, you will be able to quickly toast the outsides of your bread cubes, while leaving the centers soft, chewy and amazing! :) Just sayin'.
- While your bread is toasting, you can chop the vegetables for your salad.
- Wash and drain the tomatoes. I used cherry (or grape) tomatoes. You could certainly chop full-sized tomatoes, but I like the look, sweetness and texture of the cherry tomatoes, in this salad. I sliced about ⅓ of them in half, more for looks, than taste.
- Dice the onion fine. Traditional panzanella uses rings, or large strips, of red onion; which I adore, but won't make it past a couple of our kids. Diced fine, they rarely notice them, but left in rings, they would pick them out and waste them, so of course, I diced them for my panzanella. Also, my onion was on the larger side, so I only used about ½ cup.
- Peel and dice the cucumbers.
- Mix all the vegetables in a large salad bowl and toss with the toasted bread and black pepper.
- Whisk together ⅔ cup garlic olive oil and ½ cup white balsamic. (You could add herbs, but I so love this oil and vinegar combination, that I wanted it to shine through as the dominant flavor. The mellow hint of garlic in the buttery olive oil is so incredible combined with the sweet bite of the white balsamic. That's the full, rich flavor I was longing for, so nothing else was required.
- Drizzle ½ the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Then allow it to chill in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes. This is where I really stray from traditional panzanella. Typically, it would set for hours to let the bread absorb all the dressing. I wanted to give mine time for the vinaigrette to cling to every lovely piece of crusty bread, but not so much time that the bread lost its gorgeous texture. 20-30 minutes was perfect for us.
- Serve this delicious salad as a lunch or as a side dish. It will be raved over in either instance. The first night I served it as a side to a yummy spaghetti casserole. It was a delectable lunch, all on its own, the next day.
- Arrange a bed of fresh greens on a salad plate and top with your marinated panzanella. Serve it with the reserved dressing available for additional drizzling, if needed.
- So delicious. So comforting and hearty. This is a simple and easy dish that will taste like a warm welcome to everyone fortunate enough to share it in your home. Enjoy!
I received a bottle of O Roasted Garlic Olive Oil and a bottle of O White Balsamic Vinegar in order to test them in my own kitchen and collect information for this review. Additionally, I used them to create a recipe for a contest, where I could potentially win other O Olive Oil products. No monetary compensation was received for this review and a positive review was not required. As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own, and based on my personal experience with the product.