It was bloody hot today. Too hot to hold hands with The Man. Too hot to walk barefoot in the grass (even the grass was hot). And def too hot to cook. AmIright? So here’s what we’re gonna do.
Stay inside, strip down to our skivvies, pour some wine, turn on our favorite music (Justin Timberlake, Outkast, Beck, Nina Simone…whatever gets the hips swaying) and make Panzanella Salad.
It’s a beautiful word, isn’t it? Panzanella. Pane (bread) + zanella (soup bowl) = panzanella. Saying it feels like a silky + floral Chianti is trickling down your throat. Pan-za-NEL-la! Calling it by its name— Panzanella Salad, a Tuscan bread salad—is much more euphemistic than Booty Salad, which is what The Man calls it.
Get your mind out of the gutter and lemme explain.
The Italian women who are credited with creating this popular summer salad would take their day old bread, soak it in vinegar, and add their garden’s bounty. In that fashion, I clean out the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper and toss whatever is there in a bowl. So what The Man means by Booty Salad is that I loot the fridge’s booty to make this salad.
I hope that helps you understand The Man’s nickname for this salad a little better, you filthy beast.
You see, I tend to overbuy at the farmer’s market because I want ALL the veggies. As a result, I find myself making Panzanella Salad about every other week. But here’s the beauty–it is never the same salad twice! When you make it, you may use any veggies in the crisper, any briny condiments on the fridge door, and all the herbs in your garden. What you’ll find below is not a recipe but guidelines for making Panzanella Salad. It is the perfect you do you salad! And don’t forget to use that day old bread because it is a venial sin to waste good bread! And because this is a BREAD SALAD! Exclamation mark! That is the whole reason this recipe was conceived in the first place.
About fresh vegetables v. jarred vegetables Either fresh peppers or roasted peppers is an excellent choice as each will bring its own voice to the ensemble. I like roasted peppers because they have a more Mediterranean feel (and I love the char!), but I also use fresh peppers if I find them during my fridge-plunder. If I am ambitious (and it is not sweltering outside), I grill artichokes for this salad while I grill the bread. But the briny ones in the jar are also tasty. And olives? Choose your favorite. Period. And as far as measurements go, just do -ish. 1 cup-ish or 1 handful-ish. You get it?
About your bread Some breads are denser than others. If your bread is dense, let it sit in the vinegar for a couple of minutes before adding the other ingredients. Also, I mention popping the bread into the oven or on the grill or in a pan to toast it. I started toasting the bread because I never had stale bread just sitting around. Toasting dries it (makes it stale), thereby giving it more body. If it is already a day old, toasting isn’t necessary, but it’s entirely up to you. I love the concept of bread in a salad as a foil to the saltiness of the briny ingredients. Favolosa!
About the dressing A simple V+O dressing will let you taste the glorious flavors of the Panzanella Salad. I recommend that you use a high quality olive oil and vinegar, either red wine or balsamic. (I get mine from Golden Isles Olive Oil.) Choose balsamic if you are looking for a sweeter + deeper flavor, as it has been aged longer than its red wine counterpart.
Panzanella Salad is already a meal, but adding a shredded rotisserie chicken will further please the carnivores in residence. If that is the case, you may want to double the dressing.
This salad pairs well with crisp + dry whites and rosés. It is also a match made in heaven paired with Champagne or Prosecco or Cava.
If you make this Panzanella Salad, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below, Pin it to your board, and tag #nakedepicurean on Instagram so we can celebrate together!
Panzanella Salad (for 6)
for the croutons
- 1 baguette, cubed
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
In a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. When hot, add the bread cubes and fry until golden, about 7-10 minutes, stirring often. Add more oil as needed. Remove from pan and drain on a paper lined plate. Season with S&P.
for the salad
- 1 handful of grape tomatoes, halved if necessary
- ½ red onion, chopped
- ¼ cup drained caperberries
- ½ cup roasted red peppers in a jar, drained; or 1 fresh, diced
- ¼ cup pitted olives, halved lengthwise
- 1 can artichokes, drained or 3-4 baby artichokes, roasted or grilled
- 2 ounces baby arugula, baby spinach, or watercress
- 1 English cucumber, sliced; or a larger cucumber cut into half moons
- ½ cup pepperoncini por hot cherry peppers, 2 tablespoons juiced reserved
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, hand shredded, grated, or shaved
for the dressing
- 4 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- ¾ cup loosely packed basil leaves, torn, divided
- freshly cracked S+P to taste
1. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes and pepperoncini juice. Toss to combine.
2. Roast/pan fry/grill the cubed bread. Add the bread to the dressing. Let sit 5-15 minutes, depending on how dense the bread is.
3. Add the remaining ingredients of your choosing (except the cheese) to the bowl. Season liberally with S&P. Cover the salad and let stand at room temperature to blend, about 30 minutes. Garnish with rest of basil before serving.