The idea for this post came from Mark Bittman, a culinary hero of mine. He has a recipe for a whole grain panzanella in his The Food Matters Cookbook, but I wasn’t crazy about his preparation. He calls for the toasted bread to be soaked in water, a step that didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to use a beautiful whole grain loaf of bread I had picked up at our neighborhood Farmers Market a few days ago. The bread was just beginning to dry a bit and was a perfect consistency for my salad.
I added some shards of Parmesan and toasted pine nuts to include a little protein, keeping with the Italian theme.
TIP: Add the basil, Parmesan and toasted nuts just before serving.
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups whole grain bread cubes, about an inch in size
- 1 red and one orange or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 a hothouse cucumber, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 2 cups of cherry or cut-up tomatoes
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced and chopped red onion
- 4 good-sized shards of fresh Parmesan
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 6 fresh basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- kosher salt and ground black pepper (optional)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
1. Using a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the bread cubes and toast, stirring frequently, until browned on all sides. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the peppers, cucumber, tomatoes and red onion. Set aside.
3. In a small, deep bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Whisk in the olive oil.
4. Add the bread cubes to the vegetables and toss with the vinaigrette. Allow the salad the sit on the counter while you toast the pine nuts.
5. Roll the basil leaves into a cigar and slice thinly.
6. Add the toasted nuts, shards of Parmesan and fresh basil. Toss and serve.