Panzanella is translated to: Italian Bread Salad. However, my recipe helps create that healthy balance of veggies to bread. This recipe is also such a crowd pleaser with my friends and family...people come back for seconds and thirds! It has honestly ruined me for any other type of panzanella salad…I am now a panzanella snob (hahah).
Another thing I love about this dish is that you can do a lot of it ahead of time! I usually chop the majority of the ingredients (besides the tomatoes) and make the croutons ahead of time. Then, before serving, I mix the croutons, tomatoes and dressing in with the rest of the ingredients. I love entertaining and this is a dish that helps me socialize with friends and family without worrying about last minute cooking.
Ingredients for Salad:
2 1/2 - 3 cups english cucumbers (around 1 1/2 cucumbers) - quartered and chopped into 1/2 in pieces
1/2 cup kalamata olives (sliced in half)- I use Mezzetta Sliced Greek Kalamata Olives
1 cup chopped bell pepper into 1/2 in cubes (can be any color, but yellow, red and orange look the prettiest!)
1/2 (around 3/4 cup) red onion - diced
3 medium vine tomatoes (around 1 1/2 cups) chopped - (chop at close to serving)
1 - 8 oz fat free feta large cube cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 1/2 cups homemade croutons:
-Generic Italian seasoning
-2 1/2 cups cubed bread of choice (I used stale Italian rolls)
-Spray extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Spread the cubed bread on a sheet tray with an even amount of spray oil over the top.
3. Evenly season the bread with salt, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.
4. Bake the bread for 15-20 min at 350 or until medium brown in coloring (check periodically). Let the bread out on the counter to harden for more into crouton consistency.
5. Mix all of the chopped ingredients, besides the tomatoes, in a large bowl. Leave the tomatoes aside until closer to serving time because they will start to break down once cut and will make the salad watery.
6. Make the salad dressing in a small bowl and whisk with a fork to combine the oil and lemon juice.
7. When you are close to serving, chop tomatoes and add to the ingredient bowl.
8. Right before serving, add the dressing and then the croutons. Toss until uniformly mixed and serve immediately!