Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Spring/Summer Panzanella

Panzanella is one of those recipes where you can literally use anything you have on hand. While some versions include cheese, we love how simply and secretly vegan it can be too! 

That’s why we decided to include it in our recipes list – it’s simple enough to easily execute, and the ingredients and additions can vary by taste, preference, or just by what you have on hand!

Toast your leftover bread

Panzanella starts out by taking leftover bread, cutting or tearing it into cubes, and toasting in an oven until light golden brown. The key here is to essentially dry out the bread. When the bread dries out, it soaks up all the bright wonderful flavors of the vinaigrette, tomatoes, and any other mix ins. While we encourage you to use whatever you may already have on hand, or prefer, panzanella with basil vinaigrette is an absolutely perfect dish to get you right through spring and summer. We’re pretty sure it’d be tasty with any vinaigrette, or even just some olive oil – but nothing says summer like basil! (We include a basic recipe for basil vinaigrette below).
well ahead of time, or even the night before.

Depending on when you’d like to serve, or eat, your panzanella salad – that will determine when to toss the ingredients together. We like mixing and letting ours sit for about 20 minutes. This gives the toasted bread some time to soak up the flavors of the vinaigrette, juices from the tomatoes, etc., without getting too soggy. A little bite and crunch to the bread is what you’re looking for – but not so crunchy that you break a tooth. Mix your toasted bread, basil vinaigrette, and tomato slices together with some salt and pepper, and let sit to really bring all those bright, beautiful flavors out.  ** Note:  if you’re using fresh greens, like in our photo, we recommend mixing those in right before serving or eating – no one likes soggy greens either! **

The beauty behind this recipe, again, is its versatility. For our version that’s pictured, we used a day old French baguette, basil vinaigrette, sliced cherry tomatoes, and shaved asparagus. Some fresh sliced cucumbers would be great too! We also mixed in some fresh spring greens before serving, to give it more of a salad feel and add some body. Feel free to try this out with your own mix ins, or your favorite vinaigrette dressing. If you’re using a basic vinaigrette, try topping with some fresh basil leaves or fresh herbs, or topping it off with some lemon zest. Whatever you mix in or use, don’t forget to let your mixture sit for at least 10-15 minutes. Turn those leftover veggies and bread into an easy lunch, dinner, or side dish for your next party!

Prep your ingredients ahead of time

Simple Basil Vinaigrette
-        1 ½ to 2c basil leaves
-        1 small shallot
-        1 garlic clove
-        1 to 2t fresh lemon juice
-        2T red wine vinegar
-        6 to 8T canola or olive oil

Rough chop your shallot, garlic, and basil. Add into blender with remaining ingredients, except oil.  Blend on low while slowly pouring oil in. Turn up to higher speed for a few seconds to  make sure all ingredients are well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To make the Panzanella Salad:
Take a loaf of day old bread – any bread will do, but we like using a baguette – and cut or tear into medium squares / pieces. If your bread is still fresh, you can leave the bread pieces out overnight to help them dry out a bit before baking. Toss bread cubes in a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread into one layer on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden and dry, timing will depend on your oven, so keep an eye on them! You want the bread cubes to be golden and have a crisp to them, but not as crunchy as croutons. Once baked, set aside and let cool.

In a large bowl, toss the bread pieces with your vinaigrette until lightly coated. Let sit for about 15 to 20 minutes.

For our veggies, we used sliced cherry tomatoes, shaved asparagus, and fresh greens. We like mixing these in right before eating / serving, to help preserve the freshness and brightness of these spring veggies!  Keep in mind that you may need to add a bit more vinaigrette and / or seasoning after mixing in the veggies. Enjoy!

- Chef Amanda

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