I’ve been getting questions about what sort of Salad to make for the hottest summer days; something that goes with everything. That’s not so tough for someone like me, a supposed expert on food, to tackle, right? But the more you think about it, the harder it gets to choose one…
But I did finally come up with an answer after fair amount of cogitation. The embarrassing part is, it was under my nose the whole time.
Consult the experts on summer
What wasn’t immediately clear to me was that, to choose an ideal Summer Salad, one should start by consulting or at least observing the experts on la dolce vita – Italians. In deed, the ancient and Italian culture has perfected the art of living ‘the sweet life’.
And one of the unique culinary treats that has come out of the Italian experience is… Panzanella Salad.
I’ve often thrown ta Panzanella using just the basics – Fresh Tomatoes, Bread Cubes some Fresh Basil and a simple Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinaigrette – at at the last minute, to round out a luncheon or supper menu. there are some additional touches you can add to make this Mediterranean Staple really special without adding too much time or effort to the process, and you probably have all the ingredients in your fridge and pantry already!
Instead of plain White Bread use a light Rye Bread or something like Sourdough to amp up the texture and flavour of this Salad. A denser Bread like these makes more-robust Croutons, which can absorb a certain mount of Dressing without getting soggy or mushy.
Make Croutons instead of just tearing up Bread and tossing it into a bowl. Tossing the Bread Cubes in Olive Oil and toasting them for a few minutes in a 350 F to 375 F brings out the native texture and flavour of the Bread and ensures that it won’t go mushy after the Dressing is added to the Salad bowl.
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes cost a little more than regular Romas or Beefsteaks, but they’re worth it in a Panzanella. All you have to do is wash them and cut them in half. Perfect size and a great presentation at the table. You can leave any under 3/4 in. / 1.5 cm in diameter whole – but they won’t absorb any flavour from the Dressing.
I like to use Dijon Mustard instead of regular Yellow Mustard or Dry Mustard to emulsify the Oil and Vinegar for the Dressing. Its slightly earthy flavour complements any fancy Bread you want to use to jazz up your Panzanella.
To make your Salad a luncheon main dish, add small balls of Fresh Mozzarella and make sure they get a chance to absorb some of the Dressing. Fresh Mozz, like Tofu, is a serious flavour sponge. Make the most of that convenient trait! Cubes of Cucumber or Sweet Pepper, or crunchy Bacon bits aren’t out of place, either.
Go forth and Panzanellafy!
Try this simple Salad once, and you’ll be making it all summer…
~ Maggie J.