There are innumerable variations on this Italian summertime classic, but today I'm sharing with you my favorite. While it was initially built on a foundation of onions, panzanella is now considered to be a tomato and bread salad. My take on it opts for feta rather than mozzarella, which I find to not pack enough flavor.
I love STRONG flavor profiles served in rustic-y kinds of ways. The zucchini runneth over in our house during the summer, so it is entirely apropos that I'd chop it up and serve it en mass.
Without further ado: Grilled Plumage Panzanella
There's no science to this, only to create an equal ratio of each vegetable. The recipe below makes for 6 to 8 GENEROUS side servings
2 red bell peppers
2 yellow bell peppers
1 or 2 yellow squash
4 or 5 slices of day old Italian bread, about 1/2" thick
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, chopped
1/3C fresh basil, chiffonade
1/3C fresh mint, chopped
4oz feta cheese
1/3C olive oil
1/4C balsamic vinegar
Core, seed, and slice bell peppers into quarters. Chop the ends off of squashes, slice in half lengthwise. Place vegetables and bread on a sheet pan, oil lightly and season with salt and pepper.
|photo courtesy of Camille Styles)|
Grill vegetables until they begin to char- about 4 minutes on each side over a medium high flame. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, place halved tomatoes, basil, mint, feta cheese and 1/4C pitted and halved black olives if you so choose. I detest olives and will vomit if you place them in this salad, but I guess I'll let you make the call.
Also add the cucumber- you could use a seedless English one, but I find them to be overpriced and bitter. Instead, peel a regular ole garden cuc, core (remove seeds), and chop.
After the vegetables have cooled, chop them roughly and add to the bowl. Tear the bread slices and add. Whisk together vinegar and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and dress the salad. Season lightly with more pepper (about 1/4t) and salt (about 1/8t, as the feta adds a salty component already).
Tonight, I served this salad with a steak and after a 6am workout, a full day of work, running errands to the granite showroom and the cabinet maker with my Mom, it was PERFECTION. Simple, rustic, flexible (google "Panzanella" and you'll see how endless the possibilities are) and relatively healthy. Minimal mess and vegetable leftovers for the compost bin.
An Earth Mama's wet dream.