For this traditional Tuscan bread salad I made fresh seasoned croutons using a loaf of French bread from Panera. I combined olive oil, garlic powder, salt and a bit of pepper in a bowl and tossed the 1″ cubes until they were coated. They came out of the oven browned, crisp and quite flavorful. These were combined with tomatoes, cucumber, basil and fresh mozzarella balls to make a salad that is as beautiful as it is delicious. The salad is then dressed with a shallot vinaigrette to finish off this Italian masterpiece. As usual, I did make a few substitutions — red onion for the shallot, and red wine vinegar instead of sherry vinegar. I also tossed in half of red bell pepper that I had in the fridge. This salad is perfect to make ahead, to take along to a pot-luck, as a side or as a meal in itself.
PANZANELLA (Serves 6)
- 1 loaf of French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 t. garlic powder
- 1/2 t. salt
- pinch of black pepper
- 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 English cucumber, cut into bite-size pieces
- 6 oz. fresh mozzarella balls (ciliegine or perlini)
- 1/2 c. basil leaves, torn
- 1/4 c. sherry vinegar
- 3/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 shallot, finely chopped
- 1-1/2 t. stone-ground mustard
- Pinch of sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Toss bread with oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Spread pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake 12 minutes until golden brown, turning them halfway through cooking time.
- For the vinaigrette: Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl until fully incorporated. Season with salt as needed.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and dress with vinaigrette just before serving.