Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tomato-basil panzanella

Here on this part of the East Coast, this weekend ushered in a burst of summertime weather typically more conducive to early August instead of early May.  It was downright HOT outside and I had zero interest in turning on the oven (or doing much cooking, truth be told).

I did, however, have a craving for one of my absolute favorite summertime dishes, a simple panzanella salad. That's a fancy way of saying "bread salad."  I could eat this as a meal and on Saturday night when everyone else in the family had leftover pizza, that's exactly what I did. 

My go-to-panzanella recipe comes from page 42 of Veggie Meals, by Rachael Ray. For Saturday's salad, I halved the ingredients since it was just me having the salad.  (The Husband and Boo sampled some of it.)  According to Rach, this serves 2 as a supper and 4 as a starter.

3 medium vine-ripe tomatoes, diced
20 leaves fresh basil, stacked, rolled into logs, then thinly sliced
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cubed into bite-size pieces (optional)
2 crusty, chewy rolls, cubed (day-old Italian is fine)
3 tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil (3 turns around the bowl)
1.5 tbsps red wine vinegar (a couple splashes)
coarse salt and black pepper, to taste

(My notes: on Thursday, I purchased some delicious breadsticks from the farmer's market.  They were already seasoned with basil and oregano, so I just added a little dried basil - didn't have fresh - to the salad.  The three breadsticks that I used were perfect, as they were the perfect amount of staleness for this.  I substituted some shredded mozzarella for the fresh.  Not quite the same, but in my book, any mozzarella is better than no mozzarella. Finally, I added in some diced cucumber.)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Let stand for 10 minutes to allow bread to absorb juices, then serve.

Seriously, could this be any easier? (No, it really couldn't.) Plus, it is especially delicious the next day, after the flavors have had time to blend overnight ... and you can make this in advance for any summertime get-togethers or when you need a simple dinner.


  1. YUM! Perfect hot weather food!

  2. This looks delicious! I'm tempted to make it for lunch right now, and it's not even that warm today. Thank you, Melissa (and Rachel).

  3. So are the amounts above the amounts you made this weekend? Or are those the "full recipe" amounts?

    Sounds awesome. Can't wait to try it.

  4. Sounds so good. Definitely going in my "to try" file.

  5. I grew up on a similar salad--with a Middle Eastern twist. More or less the same ingredients, only substitute toasted pita for the Italian bread; mint for the basil; and feta for the mozzarella. It's called Fatoosh and it's incredibly delicious.

    I can't wait to try this one!

  6. My girlfriend Barbara is married to a Syrian and we have eaten Fatoosh forever - well, they are married 50 years. I adore it. She does not like Feta so uses mozzarella. I happen to like Feta, which is low calorie to begin with as is the pita. Here in So. FL there are two Middle Eastern stores and one superb restaurants that the three of us to go. I eat Taboulah made by the stores and fresh kalamatra olives. Can't get enough of it. They make is so different from the Armenians, which is the way I was taught. They barely use bulgar and the Armenian way it is most of the recipe. I love both. AND the lamb chops. Ummmmmm!

    I am going to make this for me this weekend. It is 90 and 100% humidity here today. I sat at the mall for an hour waiting for my girlfriend to buy greeting cards, that was fast, and I was fanning myself - yup a/c was on but I am just a wimp when it comes to heat down here.

  7. excellent. thanks for sharing this one.