Sunday, June 14, 2009


Our great neighbors Jeff & Kerry (a.k.a. "the boys") have an annual neighborhood fish fry. Yes, we're landlocked, and yet somehow, between the early summer thunderstorms and the boys' lush backyard garden, we got a little taste of Seattle in suburban Salt Lake City.

Everyone brought a dish to share: rich, creamy clam chowder, green apple slaw, coleslaw, green salad with avocados, crostini with spinach dip, herbed oven fries, some sort of amazing bean salad, fresh cut fruit. And the desserts! Brenda's lovely trifle with lemon pound cake, lime cheesecake, and texas sheet cake with walnut frosting. Walnut frosting!

Ed usually leaves the cooking to me, but for this occasion, he gently suggested: "make that bread salad that's freaking awesome." Okay, Ed! 

This salad is inspired from Ina Garten's delicious Panzanella. The main technique that sets Ina's apart above other recipes is the extra step of crisping up the bread in some olive oil before adding it to the salad. The result is a savory, chewy, crispy bread that is really well seasoned and doesn't fall apart in the salad. Also be sure to use a nice Italian bread and not the cottony French bread you usually find in your store bakery.
The great thing about this salad is that you can adapt the ingredients to your tastes, as long as you have the basics of the bread and the vinaigrette.

For the croutons:
1 chewy Italian baguette, cubed
2-3 T. olive oil (extra virgin, can use a garlic flavored oil if you have it)
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 garlic clove, smashed (optional)

For the salad:
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 to 1 English cucumber, cubed
1 yellow pepper, cubed (can also use red or orange)
3-4 tomatoes, cubed
20 fresh basil leaves, torn
handful fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
a few shavings of parmesan cheese (optional)

For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sugar

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread, salt, and pepper, and smashed garlic clove, if using; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. Remove garlic. (You may have to do this in two batches.)

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and parsley. 

This is where I get carried away with the camera. All of the vegetables looked so beautiful, starting with the onions.

No, they didn't fall on the cutting board like that, but I couldn't help myself.

Adding more vegetables...
Almost done...

Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Finish with a few shavings of parmesan cheese. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.


Fab Fisher Family said...

It was so yummy! Thanks for making it! We had a great time chatting with you guys too.

amanda said...

yum. that looks sooooo good. i really wish jonathan didn't hate the taste of vinegar. almost all salads are doomed from the beginning.

just yesterday i was reading the archives of this awesome recipe blog (i know! what is going on with me?!)that i stumbled upon and read about a strawberry panzanella. it looks good too. here:

Sarah said...

will definitely be making this one! thanks!