Panzanella Salad

This panzanella salad was ALWAYS a big hit at our neighborhood barbecues when I used to live in Cleveland. I do not know why it has taken me so many years to actually write about this recipe! Now is the perfect time of year to take advantage of all the local produce that is coming in to season and make this delicious salad.

A panzanella salad is a salad with its origins in Tuscany – it is basically made with chunks of bread soaked in dressing (presumably to bring some stale bread back to life), tomatoes, onions, olives, even anchovies (but not in this recipe). As salads go, this one is just a tiny bit more labor intensive than others, but I promise you that the little bit of extra work will be worth it in the end.

Ingredients for the salad: 

Focaccia bread, or something that can be sliced and grilled (I bought mine from the fabulous Nova’s Bakery)

North Carolina red onions from the Davidson Farmers Market

Olive oil
Tomatoes (handful of cherry tomatoes or 1 large ripe tomatoes)
Green Pepper (or red or yellow – or all three!)
1 small red onion
A few basil leaves
Kalamata olives

Ingredients for the dressing: 

About 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
About 1 clove garlic, minced
2 to 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon brown mustard
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper


Ready to be grilled

1. Slice the focaccia and drizzle it with a little bit of olive oil so that you can “grill” it over high heat on a skillet on your stove – a few minutes per side until the focaccia has a nice crispiness to the outside. I used about 1/2 of a loaf of focaccia – this recipe is a great use for leftover bread – no need to buy fresh bread.

2. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing – olive oil, minced garlic, brown mustard, and white wine vinegar – I used a pinot grigio vinegar that I purchased at Harris Teeter. Taste test the dressing and add a little salt and pepper to taste.

3. Roughly cut the toasted focaccia bread into bite-sized squares and combine the focaccia and the dressing in a large bowl. Let the bread soak up the dressing while you are preparing the veggies.

About to be added to the bread…

4. Chop the vegetables – cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, olives, red onion into similarly sized pieces. To prepare the basil for the salad, I like to layer the basil leaves into a small pile and roll them tightly together – then slice thin strips from the rolled basil.

5. Toss the vegetables, the basil, and the capers with the bread that has been absorbing all the flavors of the dressing.

Ideally, you would like to let this salad sit for about 30 minutes before serving. In reality, that might not be possible – it will still taste delicious!  


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Erin Brighton

I am a native New Englander now living in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina and enjoying summers in sea-breezy Scituate, Massachusetts with my five small kids and two large dogs. I love to cook easy, local, and gluten-free for friends and family.

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