Eyes Before Taste Buds: Panzanella Salad

Sure, it’s great when food tastes good, but any food blogger will tell you that what’s really important is presentation. Colorful, vibrant food is instantly appealing. Looking at a wall of penny candy or a heaping bowl of fruit, you are mesmerized by the abundance of color. If it’s appealing to the eye, it must be appealing to your taste buds, right? We felt this way when we first created this summery, visually enticing side dish. Panzanella salad, a classic Tuscan summer dish, celebrates fresh garden produce.

Classic panzanella incorporates stale, unsalted Tuscan bread. Since we do not keep stale bread on hand (who doesn’t finish bread before it goes stale?) we decided to char a fresh French baguette. The toasted baguette inside the dish absorbs the vinaigrette while maintaining its crunch alongside the fresh cubed vegetables. The married flavors are a kaleidoscope of color and texture.

Panzanella Salad



 1 baguette cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 1-inch cubes

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

 1/2 c basil leaves, julienned

8oz feta cheese cut into ½-inch cubes

salt and pepper throughout

Vinaigrette :

½ c EVOO

 3 T red wine vinegar

1 clove minced garlic

 1 t Dijon mustard

salt and pepper throughout

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes, EVOO, salt and pepper and arrange on a baking sheet. Cook in the oven until nicely browned on both sides.

In a small bowl, whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion and basil.  Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Add the feta and season with salt and pepper. Let the salad with for 20 – 30 minutes to allow the bread and vegetables to absorb the vinaigrette before serving. Serves 6-8.

We love to serve this dish as a side at any summer BBQ. It’s also great as a base for an entree salad with grilled shrimp on top. Don’t underestimate the transformative qualities of aged bread!

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  • Libbie June 1, 2012  

    I forgot all about panzanella! Can’t wait to make it this summer.

  • Tracy {Pale Yellow} June 2, 2012  

    Fantastic, easy summer dinner.

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