If you are looking for a recipe that captures the true essence of the summer season, then this is that kind of salad. I was bouncing between booths at my local farmers market looking for recipe ideas for my Party on the Porch event. One booth in particular caught my attention with tables piled high with deep red tomatoes and bell peppers that glistened in the evening sun. It was the farmer who harvested the bounty of vegetables earlier in the week that had suggested I make Panzanella. He said, “What other recipes can show summer in a bowl like Panzanella?”
What made this recipe special were the grilled croutons. Sure you can toast them in the oven or buy the premade variety. But that’s not nearly as fun as feeling the intense heat of the flames radiating off grates. I recommend tossing the fresh cubed croutons in the vinaigrette while they are still warm. It’s a great way to encourage the toasted bread to soak in as much flavor as possible.
- 2 hothouse cucumbers, medium diced
- 1 large tomato, medium diced
- ½ red bell pepper, medium diced
- ½ yellow bell pepper, medium diced
- ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small French bread, ½” sliced
- 1 small bunch fresh basil, shredded
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the grill with a medium flame. Lightly brush each side of the bread slices with olive oil. Grill the bread for 1 minute on each side until golden and toasted. Cut into large cubes and toss into a mixing bowl. Add the remaining vegetables and basil.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic and mustard until well combined. While still whisking, pour the olive oil until emulsified. It should be slightly thickened and a light golden yellow. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad a few minutes before serving to allow the flavors to soak into the croutons.