Once upon a time there was a 34 year old woman who had never eaten Panzanella because she hated raw tomatoes and was gluten free.
Panzanella is a salad consisting mostly of raw tomatoes and fresh crusty bread, so the woman resigned herself to never trying it.
But people rave about Panzanella. And the woman felt like she was missing out. One loophole existed: she could eat tomatoes raw only if they were perfectly, perfectly ripe, with no pithy nastiness, and had never been refrigerated, thus making it taste like sunshine. This happens approximately once each year when the conditions are perfect.
Today was the day. I went to our local Elkstone Farm and bought the most gorgeous, sweet, yellow cherry tomatoes known to man. They were so perfect I could just pop them plain into my mouth and…Oh, I guess I should tell you: it’s me. I’m the woman who hates tomatoes.
But you already knew that.
Anyway, the same day I buy the most perfect tomatoes happened to also be the day I stumbled upon a new Panzanella recipe. At first I dismissed it because there is still the bread/gluten issue, but then I had a thought. What if I used a gluten free baguette?
I didn’t even know if I could find a gluten free baguette – because, #smalltownproblems.
I hadn’t seen gf baguette where I live, only frozen bread slices which would certainly not do. Never before did I have the tomatoes sent from heaven above sitting— nay! Laying in wait, on my kitchen counter, while I pondered the baguette, with a Panzanella recipe within reach.
The perfect Panzanella storm.
I made it. I ate it.
And now I know why people go crazy for this stuff. It is simply divine. Salty, vinegary, and basil-y, which IS a word. I think Panzanella should be one of the summer food groups because it delights all of the senses – sight, smell, taste. It’s the whole package. Panzanella, I’m pretty sure, was invented by the angels. Or the Italians, which is basically the same thing.
My eyes have been opened.
And because we still have a proper amount of summer left (as far as produce is concerned), it means I could make this a few more times easy. And I will.
If you have invited people over to your house for dinner and you are doing that I’m-freaking-out-and-don’t-know-what-to-make thing, allow me to solve all of your problems with…panzanella.
It is a showstopper dish, which means for company all you have to do is grill some chicken or fish, serve with panzanella and BOOM.
If you want to be a show-off, make a fruit cobbler for dessert. Just don’t make another side dish. You don’t need it.
I am taking my own advice tonight, actually. I’m having our dear friends over for dinner. Here is the menu:
cocktails: white wine and fresh peach spritzers
dinner: marinated grilled chicken and panzanella
dessert: fresh strawberry cobbler
I made the chicken marinade (my standby recipe which uses lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic, dijon and apple cider vinegar- I’ll blog about it) and salad dressing this morning. Then I toasted the bread cubes this afternoon and set them aside at room temp until I needed them. All that I had to do that night was cut up some fruit (for the cobbler) and then veggies (for the Panzanella salad), and lastly, mix the batter for cobbler and bake, which takes five minutes flat (I’ll blog about that too).
Use what ever fruit you fancy for the cobbler. Peach is actually my favorite, but blueberry, or mixed berry works well too. Save the apple for the fall – that’s all I ask.
Here’s the gluten free baguette I used. I found this in the freezer section of my grocery store. It was there the whole time!
If you are a vegetarian, just serve the panzanella as the main course, set out a bowl of cherries and peaches, and call it a meal.
Vegan? Leave the cheese out. Plenty of people do.
Ready? Set? PANZANELLA!
*note: start this salad 1 and a half hours before you need it. Salad needs to sit after it’s dressed before serving.
4 cups crusty bread, cubed
1 cucumber, halved, seeded and sliced
1 carton cherry tomatoes, halved (or three regular tomatoes cut in chunks)
1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
20 basil leaves, torn
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella, cut in chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic loves, minced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Toast the bread cubes. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a skillet. When the skillet is hot, add bread cubes and toss around for five minutes until it’s toasted in places and dried out. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool, and store until needed.
To make the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the salad, combine the cucumber, tomato, red onion, basil, mozzarella, bell pepper, and toasted bread cubes in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dress with dressing to taste and toss. Set the bowl in the fridge for 1 hour so the Panzanella’s flavors can meld together.