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July 04, 2011

4th of July Salad Favorite : Farmers Market Panzanella | Heirloom Tomatoes Red Peppers Fresh Basil

 4th of July Salad Favorite : Farmers Market Panzanella

When produce season is in full swing, it is great to have a recipe that utilizes everything that looks great at the farmers markets: tomatoes, peppers, fresh basil, etc.  This panzanella is one of my favorite summer side dishes - it is always oogled over when I serve it at parties.  The best part is that the only thing you have to do is chop vegetables, stir together a dressing and make croutons - which, by the way, is much easier than you'd think!

Panzanella came from the need to stretch fresh vegetables and use left over bread... proof that all great things come out of necessity.  This panzanella recipe is fairly traditional, but you can use whatever fresh vegetables you have around.  I have a friend sending me a panzanella with strawberries.  I also think a watermelon version might be worth a try... maybe with a balsamic vineagarette?  Leave a comment with your panzanella ideas.  Maybe we should have a contest?!

Croutons :
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small loaf of good bread (6 cups)
Sea Salt & Pepper

Vegetables :
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound of tomatoes (I used heirloom cherry tomatoes)
1 cucumber
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1/2 red onion
20 large basil leaves

Dressing :
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon
3 tablespoons White Wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut bread into 1-inch cubes and place them on a baking sheet.  Drizzle the bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes until slightly browned.

Cut the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers into 1/2-inch cubes.  Cut onion into a small dice.  Add all of the vegetables to a bowl along with chopped fresh basil.

Whisk together dressing ingredients with a fork.  Pour over vegetables.  Add croutons just before serving. 

The salad looks as good as it tastes - so many bright colors.

I like to chop the onions a little smaller - Mike is not a huge fan of onions, so the smaller the better for him.

I used heirloom cherry tomatoes because homegrown tomato season is still a couple of weeks away in the New England.  I find that cherry tomatoes always have good flavor.

I can't say enough about homemade vinaigrettes - they are so easy.  Here is a link to some of my favorite (read: easy) homemade salad dressings.   

 Basil makes everything better...


Like those red finger nails?  A far departure from my typical creamy polish... not quite sure it is me - too high maintenance!

Everything goes into one bowl.  Wait to put the croutons in until just before serving.  

Homemade croutons are the only way to go.  They are not hard to make and they are so much better than store bought.  You can also pan fry them in butter if you've got extra time.  

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