Italian Panzanella Salad

by Sally on July 22, 2013 · 3 comments

in Gluten-free, Salads and Dressings

Panzanella

Mid-summer markets are overflowing with beautiful, colorful, heirloom tomatoes. Need a great way to use them? Make Panzanella – an Italian bread and tomato salad.

Thrifty Italian cooks used leftover or staled bread combined with vegetables for a summer salad. In my gluten-free version, I use crisp, garlicky chunks of baked gluten-free bread, plus heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, basil, shallots and Parmesan cheese. Toss the vegetables with pleasantly peppery arugula greens, then toss with a simple vinaigrette. It’s the perfect summer salad.

heirloom cherry tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

The gorgeous colors of heirloom tomatoes amaze me. When I came upon baskets of cherry tomatoes at the market I just had to bring some home. And even though the stand had them separated into baskets of the same color, I just rearranged a basket to make a mixed basket of what I wanted. They are sweet, beautiful, and bursting with summer flavor.

Tomatoes are also a super healthy food, packed with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and the mineral manganese. Plus tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.

panaznella

Gluten-Free Croutons

As Panzanella is a bread salad. Many recipes are mostly bread with a few vegetables. I’ve reversed that in my recipe. Less bread. More veggies.

I start by making what are basically large rustic croutons. Tear slices of gluten-free bread into chunks. I use Udi’s Whole Grain bread. You will find it in the freezer section of your grocer. The slices are small, so use two slices per person. Trim off the crusts, tear into large pieces, and toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Bake until crisp. Try not to eat them all before you make the salad. Maybe make extra. They keep well for another salad in the next few days.

Complete the Salad

Whisk up a light vinaigrette and add arugula, crisp cucumber, sweet shallots, fresh basil leaves and toss gently with your hands. Use a vegetable peeler to make shavings from a block of cheese and top salad with thin slivers of Parmesan that melt in your mouth. Sweet, savory, crunchy, garlicky, fresh – all of your sense will enjoy this terrific summer salad.

To make this a California Panzanella, add diced avocado. Avocado adds richness, healthy fat, and more health-boosting nutrients like potassium, vitamin E and B vitamins.

A Note on Vinegars

I’ve used Lucini vinegars (Cherry Balsamic and Fig Balsamic in particular) as well as artisanal vinegars I’ve picked up traveling from Crescendo (like the date creme and apple cider creme) to make wonderful vinaigrettes. Even a good quality red wine vinegar will make a fine vinaigrette. If you enjoy vinaigrettes, seek out and collect artisan bottles. You’ll be glad you did. I have a least a dozen in my pantry.

Panzanella

Italian Panzanella Salad

Based on the Italian bread and tomato salad, this version is gluten-free. It’s cool, sweet, crispy, crunchy, savory and an all around wonderful summer salad. For the vinaigrette, use good olive oil and vinegar. For a California Panzanella, add diced avocado.

Serves 2 (doubles easily)

Ingredients

Bread

  • 4 slices gluten-free bread (I used Udi’s Whole Grain)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch of black pepper

Vinaigrette (double if you like to drizzle over your salad)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (or cherry Balsamic, fig balsamic, or sherry)
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

Salad

  • 4 handfuls baby arugula
  • 1 dozen heirloom cherry tomatoes, assorted colors, halved
  • 1-2 small Persian cucumbers, diced
  • 1 shallot, sliced crosswise into thin rings
  • Parmesan shavings, as desired
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 small avocado, skinned and diced (optional)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300°. Trim crusts from bread slices and tear into large pieces. Mix olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Toss bread pieces until evenly coated. Place pieces on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until dry and crisp.
  2. While bread is baking, whisk together the vinaigrette in the same bowl. To the bowl, add arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, shallot and basil leaves. Toss gently with your hands.
  3. Divide salad onto plates and top with crisp bread chunks.

Other Helpful Links

The health benefits of tomatoes

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nancy baggett July 22, 2013 at 9:29 pm

All these photos are sooo fantastic. Still don’t know how you do it!

Reply

2 Madonna/aka/Ms. Lemon July 22, 2013 at 9:53 pm

I do love this salad, and I really like fig balsamic. Your photos belong in some magazine – gorgeous.

Reply

3 Sally July 23, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Thanks Madonna! You’ve got to try those creme vinegars from Crescendo. Amazing! I used the date creme for our salad. I am crazy about oils and vinegars. Need to write a post on that!

Reply

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