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sunday dinner: summer panzanella.

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I love a good salad. It’s crunchy and refreshing and healthy and comes together easily because no actual cooking is involved. But do you know what I love even more than a regular old salad? A regular old salad with carbs. Lots of ‘em. Take out the lettuce and replace it with bread. Why not? The Italians did it and the Italians know what’s up.

A traditional panzanella (or bread salad) is a simple combination of tomatoes and crusty bread with a little drizzle of vinegar and oil. It’s incredibly delicious and incredibly versatile — you can literally add anything you want and/or have in your fridge. I’ve fancied up my panzanella with the addition of fresh peaches, a little cured meat, and some buffalo mozzarella, and I’ve loaded on the fresh herbs for that extra kick. Summer’s finest, y’all.

Top with a little tangy vinaigrette and you’ve got a party. A party in a salad. A party in a salad with lots o’ good carbs. YUM.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Summer Panzanella (aka Italian Bread Salad)

You will need:

Salad
1 crusty baguette, torn into pieces (preferably day old bread but no worries if it’s fresh)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 peach, cut in half and sliced thin
½ log salami or other cured meat, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup arugula
8 leaves basil, torn
8 leaves mint, torn
Handful of Italian parsley (flat leaf), torn

Vinaigrette
¼ cup vinegar (red wine, white wine or apple cider vinegar are best)
¼ extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kitchen equipment: baking sheet, large salad or mixing bowl

A good panzanella needs an hour or two to sit so the vinaigrette has a chance to soak into the bread and work its magic, so make this a few hours ahead of time and set aside on the counter (don’t put it in the fridge; chilling the tomatoes will completely destroy their sweetness).

If your bread is day old, then all you really need to do tear it into bite-sizeish pieces and you’re good to go. If your bread is fresh, however, it needs a little prepping.

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread your torn bread pieces on a baking sheet, and toast on the top rack of your oven for 8-10 minutes until toasty but not too brown. Once toasted, remove from oven and add to your large salad bowl.

Slice your shallots into thin rings and add to a cup of cool water. Set aside to soak for about 10 minutes. This will cut the ‘onion-y bite’ that would otherwise overpower the other ingredients while still maintaining their crunch.

Chop the tomatoes, slice the peaches and the salami, and tear the mozzarella into small pieces. Add all ingredients to the mixing bowl with the bread. Wash and dry the arugula and add to the bowl.

Tear the basil, mint and parsley and add to the bowl (are you starting to see a theme here?).

To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, honey and salt and pepper in a small bowl; then, whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a thin stream until completely incorporated.

Add the shallots to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and toss lightly. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again to coat the ingredients thoroughly. Give it a dusting of salt and pepper and you’re good!

This salad is wonderful on its own (and by on its own I mean accompanied by a bottle of crisp rosé, obvi), but it’s also a great side dish to anything coming off the grill. I like to save a few pieces of toasted bread to add at the last minute so you have a nice mix of bread saturated with the dressing and bread that’s still crispy. Ever bite is a treat — herby and tangy and sweet summer tomato-y. DE. LISH.

Enjoy!

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