It’s cold. It’s rainy. It doesn’t feel like spring at all. Welcome to the Midwest. On weeks like these, I turn up the thermostat to 80, put on shorts, turn up the reggae and dance around my house while cooking up something summery and pretending it’s sunny and beautiful outside. During one particular occasion, I decided to be ‘Italian’ and make a beautiful Panzanella. This light summery salad is a perfect way to forget a cold rainy day. The thing I love most about it is that it’s different. It’s not your typical ‘lettuce and tomato’ salad (though there’s nothing wrong with typical salads when you’re craving them), and the fact that it has the toasted bread makes it able to be a meal all in itself. This salad is definitely a keeper in my salad repertoire.
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (I like to use a combination of purple or yellow or orange, to nicely colorize the dish)
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
1/3 cup good 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, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
For the vinaigrette, whisk together the ingredients.
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 immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.
Source: Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen