Hot day? Make Panzanella.

Panzanella!I’m not sure if we’ve ever talked about panzanella together.  If not, we really should have.  I’ve only made it once before last night, which is crazy: it’s quick and easy, goes down really easily with some crisp white wine, and is perfect for summer.  Panzanella is an Italian bread salad, designed to use up leftover loaves.  If I were you, I’d run to the store right now and get some bread, so you can have this for dinner tonight.

What’s nice about panzanella is that you can include pretty much whatever you have handy.  This particular version, which I made for dinner with a friend last night, contains half a wide Trader Joe’s baguette, most of a cucumber, about half a pound of fresh mozzarella (it was on sale this week, so I didn’t make it myself.  This is easy, remember?  But you could make it a lot more involved by baking your own bread, making your own cheese, and growing your veg.  On another day, that would be up my alley), 1/4 of a vidalia onion, finely chopped, a tomato, some basil slivers, and half a red bell pepper.  I also added a can of rinsed white beans for added protein.  If you had artichokes, they’d be great; if you like olives, add them.  Feta?  Why not?  It’s very, very flexible.

For the dressing, I mixed a scant 1/4 c (maybe more like 3 T) red wine vinegar with a little more than 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil.  Add salt and pepper, pour over salad, and toss.  You want to do this with at least 20 minutes to spare, as all that bread soaks up the dressing in that time, which is what makes this salad spectacular.  This giant bowl of salad will feed only three hungry people, I have to caution you, as it is nearly impossible to stop eating it.  You might be able to get four servings, but I’d just add more, instead–finish off that cucumber, the pepper, the cheese, and add more baguette.  Include a little more oil and vinegar.  You won’t regret it!

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