Panzanella Salad with Fresh Summer Tomatoes and Basil

It’s tomato season! And it’s garlic season. And basil, and, well, everything good basically. Panzanella salad is the ultimate way to combine the best summer ingredients. Panzanella, or panmolle, is a salad originating from Tuscany that has a base of bread and tomatoes. Other cultures have a similar salad, like the Mediterranean dish fattoush, that build a base from stale bread. I’m often at a loss for what to do with stale bread. I usually end up cubing it to make croutons or crumbling it to use as breading. Panzanella salad is more fun to eat, and it’s a great cold dish to serve on a hot summer day.

The recipe that I love to use for panzanella comes from The Skinny Taste Cookbook, by Gina Homolka. The title makes it sound like a cookbook for weight loss and diet recipes, but it’s really more about eating fresh and clean. I made a few modifications to her recipe, mostly changing the amount of some ingredients to better suit my tastes. One of my brothers likes to add capers for a kick of salty flavor, and that’s the beauty of this salad: you can really add anything you want to the base.

Panzanella Salad with Fresh Summer Tomatoes and Basil

Total time: 30 minutes, plus 1 hour or overnight

Makes four servings

In my Basket:

6 large Tomatoes (from Stearns Farm, Framingham MA)

1 cup Red Onion (from Stearns Farm, Framingham MA)

10 Basil Leaves (from Stearns Farm, Framingham MA)

2 cloves Garlic (from Stearns Farm, Framingham MA)

Half loaf of Olive Rosemary bread (from Birchtree Bread Co, Worcester MA)

6 oz fresh Mozzarella (from Narragansett Creamery, Providence RI)

2 tbsp Basil Olive Oil (from Fiore, Bar Harbor ME)

From the Pantry:

Salt and pepper to taste

Day before, or at least one hour before:

  1. Wash and dry fresh produce. Medium dice tomatoes and mozzarella. Small dice the onion, chiffonade the basil.
  2. Set the tomatoes in a large colander in the sink for a few minutes to let some of the juices drain out so that the bowl isn’t too full of liquid (there will still be plenty of juices to combine to make a flavorful salad).
  3. In a large bowl, combine the drained tomatoes, mozzarella, onions, basil, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to thoroughly combine. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight or at least one hour before serving.

Day of:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium, or light your charcoal.
  2. Slice the bread into 1/2 inch thick slices. Using a basting brush, rub each side with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt.
  3. Grill the slices until slightly toasted and golden brown, a couple minutes on each side.
  4. Remove bread from heat and rub one side with the clove of raw garlic. Cut bread into small cubes, add bread to the tomato mixture. Stir to thoroughly combine and let the bread soak up some of the juices.
  5. When ready to serve, divide among four bowls. Enjoy!

Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist and creator of The Clean Food Club. She previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. She is committed to supporting local and sustainable food businesses by telling their stories with photo and video. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.

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