A Panzanella is a simple bread salad that is thought to have originated in Tuscany.
Classically containing chunks of toasted bread, fresh tomatoes, chopped onions, cucumbers, and basil tossed with a simple vinaigrette, a Panzanella can be made with any variety of vegetables.
In fact I love to browse the farmers' market and choose the best picks of the day. And I grab a loaf of Italian bread from the market as a neutral palette.
This past Saturday at the Kenosha Public Markets, I started with two pints of early cherry tomatoes. Browsing further, I picked up some sweet onions and some beautiful red bell peppers. I came across some amazing looking cucumbers, but honestly I can't stand cucumbers, so those were a pass.
All I needed was a loaf of fresh bread from La Tarte Bakery and a bunch of fresh basil.
I like to have a wide mix of flavors and textures, so for this version, I left the tomatoes raw but roasted the peppers and onions. But the reverse would have also worked nicely. I also could have left all of the vegetables raw.
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 sweet onions, chopped
3 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 loaf Italian bread, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips vertically
2 (3.8 ounce) cans sliced black olives, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place tomatoes in a colander over a large bowl; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Drain; reserving liquid.
Combine onions and peppers in a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Spoon in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes.
Spread bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until dry and crisp, about 15 minutes.
Mix together tomatoes, pepper and onion mixture, bread chunks, basil and olives in a large bowl.
Combine reserved tomato liquid with remaining vinaigrette ingredients (olive oil, vinegar, mustard, pepper and salt) and whisk until well-blended.
Pour vinaigrette over bread mixture and toss together.
Serve at room temperature.