We had two of my grandsons visiting us here in Umbria this summer, and during their stay, my teenage grandson fell in love with Caprese salad, which is simply a salad made with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. In fact, he ate buffalo mozzarella with freshly picked garden tomatoes almost every day of his two week vacation. I kept thinking that at some point he would tire of this combination, but that never happened. While visiting family in the States shortly after his visit, I was planning lunch at my daughter’s house. Of course, my grandson requested Caprese salad, but my daughter suggested Panzanella instead, so I decided to combine the two. Luckily the result turned out great, and everyone was happy.
This Italian salad is very popular here in Italy during the warmer months when tomatoes are in season. I love it as it gives me another way to use up any stale bread, rather than just making breadcrumbs. For this salad, not having any leftover bread available, I bought a crusty loaf of Italian bread the day before, that I sliced and left to dry out. I decided to grill the bread for this salad which gives it a subtle smokiness that I enjoy. Unfortunately, buffalo mozzarella was not available, so I bought fresh mozzarella balls or bocconcini from the local Italian supermarket. I kept my salad pretty simple, using a combination of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, celery, fresh basil, and parsley. You could also include diced sweet peppers, olives, and capers if you wanted to. For this recipe to be a success, you do need the right bread. The bread should be a firm crusted, rustic loaf of Italian bread. Unsalted Tuscan bread is perfect but difficult to find. If all you have is a doughy, soft textured loaf of bread, it just will fall apart in this salad. When making this salad, if my bread is very stale, I will cut it into cubes, dunk it into a bowl of water and then squeeze as much of the water out as possible. Since the bread I used for the salad in these photos was not stale, I just grilled it after brushing it with olive oil. I only use red wine vinegar and our extra virgin olive oil, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper as my dressing for this salad which is how they prepare it here in Umbria.
Deborah Mele 2016
Grilled Panzanella Caprese Salad
For The Salad:
- 8 Slices Crusty Italian Bread (See Notes Above)
- 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 2 Pints Cherry Tomatoes (I Used A Combination of Red & Yellow)
- 1 Small Red Onion, Peeled & Diced
- 2 Medium Cucumbers, Peeled, Seeded, & Diced
- 1/3 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves
- 4 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Basil Leaves
- 3 Cups Halved Mozzarella Balls
- 3/4 Cup Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- Prepare your grill to medium heat.
- Lightly brush each side of the bread slices with olive oil, then grill until lightly browned, a couple of minutes per side.
- Cut the bread into cubes, then place in a large bowl with the other salad ingredients and toss.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients, then pour over the salad and toss well.
- Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed.