This bread salad is one of my favorite recipes from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa on Food Network). It’s also one of the loveliest salads I’ve ever made. Even the garbage bowl is pretty:
The recipe can be found here, along with a printable version so I won’t bother retyping it. Here are the highlights though!
First, cube your bread:
Then toast it in a skillet with some olive oil. Be sure to add enough salt and pepper. The bread cubes play a significant role in this salad and you don’t want them to be tasteless.
While the bread is toasting and cooing, chop your vegetables. The onions get sliced nice and thinly:
If you’re in a hurry, you can just chop the cucumber as-is, but if you have the time it’s a good idea to seed them. I use a spoon – nice and quick.
The rest of the vegetables get a nice chop as well. Keep in mind that you want this salad to be easy to eat; everything should be bite-sized. Try to keep your tomatoes and peppers to about a 1-inch cube. There’s nothing more awkward than trying to stuff a huge juicy piece of tomato in your mouth while maintaining your dignity.
Throw all veggies (red pepper, green or yellow pepper, cucumber, tomato, red onion) and basil in a bowl. Make sure the bowl is big enough to give you room to really toss this salad. For the basil, I’ve chopped it (like in the photo below) and I’ve also done a chiffonade. I think I prefer the chiffonade. (Want to learn how? See this)
Add your toasted bread cubes and the vinaigrette. Oh, and for the vinaigrette, I use white wine vinegar instead of champagne vinegar (only because that’s what I have in my pantry.)
You can serve this right away, or let it sit for 10-20 minutes and allow the vinaigrette to soak into the bread a bit. This salad does not keep at all, so only make as much as you need for that one meal.
Panzanella really is best if you eat it soon, but if you need to prepare the salad ahead of time, just keep all of the components separate. Chop the vegetables and combine with the basil. Store those in one container. Make the vinaigrette (you can add a bit to the veggies if you like) and store in a separate little jar. Toast the bread last, and when it’s cooled, then you can put it in a baggie for later. I wouldn’t seal the bag all the way or your nice crunchy bread cubes will end up chewy. bleh.