The best part about panzanella is that it’s kind of a kitchen sink salad, and measurements are rough, lazy, and forgiving. Classically, it’s bread salad that soaks up all the juices from great tomatoes and other fresh vegetables. It’s all about the quality of the ingredients which is why this is the perfect transitional time of year to make it in protest of fall and in solidarity with summer. If you are me. And you’re mourning the end of the best season.
Earlier this summer, Jon and I ate at a favorite place of ours in New York, called Via Carota, and we had panzanella salad that was loaded with olives. Since I’d eat olives in and on everything except maybe cereal, it served as the inspiration for this take, which is otherwise pretty standard, except it has roasted red onions instead of raw and a great vinaigrette dressing. So this weekend at the farmers market, feed all your people or set yourself up with lunch/dinner/snacks for a couple days in the form of the prettiest, tastiest bread salad.
Inspired by Ina Garten
Yields a huge bowl for at least 12 as a side
¾ cup good extra virgin olive oil (plus a good deal more for frying the bread and roasting the onion)
¼ cup champagne vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt, plus more later to taste
Tons of freshly cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
1 red onion, sliced into large bite sized pieces
About ¾ to 1 whole loaf of stale, good bread, cut into roughly 1½ inch pieces
3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced into wedges
2 red bell peppers, chopped into large bite sized pieces
1 cucumber, sliced in half the long way, smashed a little with a rolling pin or bowl, and sliced into half moons
About 4 oz casterallano olives, roughly chopped
Couple handfuls arugula
24 or so whole basil leaves (or torn up a bit if really big)
You can begin by making the dressing (which can be done a day ahead if need be). In a jar, combine ¾ cup olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, grated garlic, 1 tsp salt, and cracked pepper, and shake to emulsify. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use. Then preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place onion on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes or so until soft and charred in parts. Set aside to cool. Then heat a large saute pan and enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add bread cubes in one layer and fry for a few minutes until golden, flipping over as needed. Repeat again as needed with additional batches of bread (you’ll like need to add more oil each time). Set croutons aside to cool on a plate. Then, in a very large mixing bowl, combine the cooled off onion, cooled off bread, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, olives, arugula, and basil (salting a bit each layer to make sure everything is very well seasoned, plus some extra black pepper if you’d like). About a half hour to an hour before you’re ready to serve it, toss with half the dressing. Then, dress with the remaining dressing right as you’re serving it.
PS: I think this keeps pretty well for a day or two in the fridge.