Grilled Panzanella Salad

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Panzanella is simply a salad that incorporates bread along with a mix of fresh vegetables. Although panzanella is Tuscan in origin, I have enjoyed it in many forms in different regions across Italy, and we really do enjoy it here in Umbria as well. Italians tend to be thrifty folks, and especially when it comes to the older generation, they hate to throw any food out. When it comes to stale bread, Italians will use it for breadcrumbs, as a stuffing for vegetables, or in a salad such as this one. To make a good panzanella you do need really ripe, fresh tomatoes and the right type of stale bread, but the rest of the ingredients may vary. I have found that saltless Tuscan bread really does work best for this salad as the bread holds up well when moistened and will not turn gummy or get mushy. This is a great summer salad as it actually improves if made ahead and is let to rest a bit before serving. When planning an outdoor menu for entertaining, or preparing a picnic lunch, this salad is often one of my first choices.

I have a grill on my new range so I decided to try a twist on our panzanella salad recently and grilled the bread, sweet peppers, zucchini, and onions before adding the tomatoes, fresh herbs, and dressing the salad. I have never added zucchini into my panzanella before, but we are heading off to the sea for a few days and I had a couple in my refrigerator that I needed to use up so I included them in the mix as well. We really enjoyed the flavor the grill added to this peasant salad and I would certainly make it this way again. I find it best to prepare this salad, let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the tomato juices and dressing, toss and then taste. Depending on the bread I use, I may need to add a little extra dressing to ensure the salad is moist and flavorful. Although this salad can be as basic as bread, onions, and tomatoes, you can play around with the ingredients as you choose. I often add in some diced celery for crunch, and I love the salty flavor good black olives add.

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Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2014

Grilled Panzanella Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 Medium Loaf Saltless, Coarse Bread, Cut Into Thick Slices
  • 1 Pound Bell Peppers, Cored, Seeded, & Cut Into 1 1/2 Inch Strips
  • 2 Red Onions, Cut Into Thirds
  • 1 Pound Zucchini, Cut Into Thick Slices
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Ripe Tomatoes, Diced
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves, Torn
  • 3 Tablespoons Salted Capers, Rinsed & Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Flavorful Black Olives, Pitted & Chopped

Dressing:

  • 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat a grill to medium heat.
  2. Lightly brush the peppers, onions, and zucchini with olive oil, then grill until tender and browned, about 4 minute per side.
  3. Grill the bread until crisp and lightly browned, then rub both sides of each slice with the garlic
  4. Tear or cut the bread into 1 inch pieces, and cut the vegetables to match.
  5. In a large bowl, toss to gather the bread, peppers, zucchini, onion, tomatoes, parsley, basil, capers, and olives.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  7. Toss the dressing with the rest of the ingredients then let the salad rest 20 to 30 minutes.
  8. Taste the salad, adjust seasonings and dressing as needed, then serve.