Panzanella Salad

Panzanella Salad Summer is drawing to a close.  There.  I said it.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but regardless of what the temperature is where you live, the start of the school year is a not so subtle signal that the long days of water skiing and sunscreen are all but over.  For me, even though my daughter started school two weeks ago, Labor Day weekend will always be my cut off.  In Minnesota, Labor Day is the last day of the State Fair and school, inevitably, always began the next day.  Also, you may think I am crazy, but the temp drops and it gets significantly cooler on the same day.  Even though I now live in central IL, I just keep mentally telling myself I have just a few days left before I pull out my turtle necks.

That was a figure of speech, by the way.  I haven’t worn a turtle neck since junior high…

In honor of the end of summer, I have a few recipes for you that use up the last of the in season produce.  The one I am giving you today is so fresh and flavorful and…well…gorgeous, that you can’t help but devour it.  So even if it is only 55 degrees at your house, you can still make this, close your eyes, and pretend that you are still at the cabin by the lake.

Panzanella salad, from what I have learned, is an Italian peasant dish.  They are usually comprised of dried out leftover bread, tomatoes, and whatever vegetables from the garden you can come up with.  This version is a bit less random and with the addition of feta, it is definitely Mediterranean.  Some panzanella salads rely soley on the juices of the tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper to dress the whole thing, but this one has an actual dressing to toss it with.  My point is, is there are flavors in this that you just aren’t fond of, then skip it.  As long as there is bread and tomatoes, you can add whatever you like or happen to have on hand.  Heck!  Tomatoes, bread, maybe some garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper and nothing else would be pretty fantastic on its own!  Those are my favorite ingredients anyway!

One Year Ago: Dippin’ Biscuits

Panzanella Salad
Adapted from Ina Garten

This dish is obviously beautiful, but the picture does not do the flavor justice.  The light vinaigrette pulls all the flavors together and the result is so absolutely addicting, I have yet to ever have leftovers.  It is a wonderful addition to just about any menu and can stand alone as a light lunch or supper.  It goes great with Grilled Yogurt Chicken and makes it a full meal.

1 small french baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 hothouse cucumber, cubed *see note
2 large tomatoes, cubed
2 bell peppers, cubed (1 yellow and 1 red is pretty)
1/2 purple onion, sliced into quarter rounds
4 oz block of feta, diced

2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
salt and pepper

Toss the bread cubes with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper and toast on a sheet pan in a 375 degree oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Cool.  Mix all ingredients of the vinaigrette together and set aside until ready-can be made several hours ahead of time.  20 minutes before you want to serve it, toss all ingredients together with the dressing.  Toss every ten minutes or so and serve.
*Note: Hothouse, or English, cucumbers, have a thinner skin and don’t need to be peeled or scored.  The are skinnier that regular cucumbers and come shrink wrapped in plastic to protect them.  They also have less seeds.  If you can’t find them, or just want to use a regular cucumber that is just fine.  Just peel it and maybe scoop out the center a bit so it is easier to eat and digest.