Panzanella Salad

by angelika on November 23, 2010

Last weekend Little Man had his birthday party. It was a swashbuckling Pirate Party. The gods, however, conspired against us. Amidst a month full of unseasonably warm days, we had one day, just one day…his day, with torrential thunderstorms and hail. We had invited more people than our house could comfortably hold, so I was in panic mode all week. It all turned out okay. People cancelled last minute, we squeezed in tight and got to know each other better, the games were adjusted to fit cramped quarters. All in all it was a great party and Little Man delighted in it. He might just be the most loved, and spoilt, four year old on the planet.

In the next few days I will post the recipes I prepared for the party. Forgive me in advance, as in my haste, I didn’t always get the exact right photos. But you’ll get the idea. Tonight I will show you my Panzanella Salad.

Panzanella Salad

2 loaves rustic country bread, I use multigrain
one red onion, sliced
one shallot, sliced
one orange bell pepper, diced 
one yellow bell pepper, diced
one red bell pepper, diced 
4 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 seedless cucumber, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups kalamatta olives
1 cup feta, cubed (optional)
olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar, I used a citrus champagne vinegar
salt to taste
fresh pepper 
This recipe is inspired by an Ina Garten recipe. I adapted it to ingredients I prefer, and I made it a lot larger. This salad serves a lot on a buffet, maybe 6 as an entree. More as a side. If you are serving it for just a few people cut in it half. 
Preheat the oven to 400º. On a sheet pan place your peppers, onion and shallot. Drizzle generously with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss. Roast until soft and golden. About 30 minutes. 
Cube one loaf of bread into one inch cubes. 

Put the onions, peppers, bread, olives, tomatoes and cucumber into a large bowl. 

Mix the ingredients for the dressing except the olive oil. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Combine 3/4 of the dressing with the salad. Cover and let marinate in the fridge. Overnight is best, but an hour will suffice in a pinch. 
Before you serve, cube the second loaf of bread, again in one inch cubes. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry the bread until it is crisp. Salt it while you fry it. You are basically making croutons.  The bread that is already in the salad has marinated and absorbed all the flavors of the vegetables, as well as the dressing. It will have a soft texture that melts in your mouth. The juxtaposition of the soft and the crisp absolutely makes this salad. 
Mix the croutons into the salad and dress with the remaining dressing. If you are using feta, gently stir in in now. I absolutely love the flavor of feta in this salad, it pairs wonderfully with the kalamatta olives and the sweetness of the peppers. I omitted it from my salad only because every other dish I was serving had dairy in it, and I always make sure to have at least one substantial vegan offering. 
A votre santé! 

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