Bread salad

I adore summer food because of the multicolors of vegetables available to grow or buy. My husband has so many different types of vegetables in his garden this time of year. It is an incredibly beautiful time for a garden.

When we cook, we almost always have a variety of salads. While we love salads, we often get into the rut of lettuce salads because my husband grows so many types of lettuce.

Thinking outside of the normal salad recipes, I absolutely love to make panzanella, or bread salad, in the summer. There are many ways to interpret a bread salad because it is just what you have on hand or in your garden, plus day-old crusty bread.

This authentic Italian recipe, which is packed with nutritional value, can use all different types of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions (green or red or Vidalia), garlic, squashes, beets and lots of basil or other herbs, such as parsley and oregano.

A novice can ace this classic recipe. Often referred to as a Tuscan bread salad, you can interpret it with any ingredients you want. I even tried a Trisha Yearwood recipe that I found on my Food Network app that is a Southern-style bread salad using cornbread.

The veggies can be raw, grilled or sautéed. The bread should be toasted with olive oil and herbs, plus a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

If you want to add cheese, you can add any type you wish. Feta is particularly good with this salad, but shaved parmesan is good as well.

The salad works well if made 30 minutes to an hour ahead of time to let all the flavors blend together. I personally do not like capers, so I leave them out. Adjust to your tastes and enjoy!

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer. She is fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County.

PANZANELLA SALAD

  • ½ loaf crusty bread, cut into
  • 1-inch chunks
  • Salt and pepper
  • Herbes de Provence (or any combination of savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme and oregano)
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced, or a bushel of cherry tomatoes, split
  • 2 large English cucumbers, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup black olives
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 handful of fresh arugula (or any salad green)
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese, or 1 cup bocconcini mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, mint, oregano, thyme)
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar of your choice (red wine or balsamic)
  • Dollop of fresh pesto (optional)

Drizzle the chunks of bread with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and Herbes de Provence. Place in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. You want the bread to be crisp but not burned.

Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers and bell pepper and add to a large bowl. Fold in the olives, onion, arugula, pine nuts, cheese, capers and fresh herbs.

Drizzle the mixture with high-quality olive oil and vinegar. Add toasted bread and toss. Top with pesto, if using.

Traditionally, the Italians set the salad aside for an hour to let the flavors blend. You can top the salad with a fillet of salmon, and you have a stellar meal.

TRISHA YEARWOOD’S CORNBREAD PANZANELLA

  • Sour Cream Cornbread (recipe follows), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pound very ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup torn fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Arrange the cornbread cubes on a baking pan in a single layer and bake until fairly dried out, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss together the tomatoes, celery, scallions, oil, vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Let stand at least 10 minutes.

Add the cornbread and basil and toss again to coat. Serve immediately.

SOUR CREAM CORNBREAD

  • 1 ¼ cups self-rising buttermilk cornmeal mix
  • 1 (15-ounce) can creamed corn
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spray a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet with cooking spray. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal mix, creamed corn, sour cream, oil and eggs. Pour the mixture into the skillet and bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

— Adapted from ‘Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood’ by Trisha Yearwood

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