We had friends over this past weekend. I was dreaming of a relaxing night chilling outside, grilling and fighting over s'mores. Mother Nature had a different dream - one that included sideways rain, humidity and darkness. So grilling was out and instead we baked fish. As a side, I made this wonderful version of panzanella. It's hardly revolutionary but I thought I'd post it because you may have forgotten all about this lovely summer staple. I almost did!
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (I use 4-5 plum tomatoes)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (can use white wine vinegar)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Or lightly coat bread with oil in large bowl, then place on cookie sheet and toast under your broiler (turning occasionally) to avoid all that frying mess! Add more oil as needed.
For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend. You can also toss all veggies with dressing and then add bread during last 20 minutes to avoid the bread soaking in too much dressing.