This past January on a trip to Orcas Island I had the BEST panzanella salad of my life. It was at a little Italian place called Sazio di Notte. This week, I was on a mission to re-create that salad. Looking back, I wish I had written down everything in Sazio’s panzanella salad while I was eating it, because now I’m having trouble remembering it exactly. But I didn’t. At the time I guess I was too busy happily munching away to be bothered. Or maybe it was because I was under the spell of a little too much red wine. Oh well. Guess I’ll have to take a second trip back to Orcas Island so I can eat it once more (OK – you twisted my arm!).
The thing that stands out most in my memory about their panzanella salad was the whole roasted garlic cloves. Which is probably why I loved their version so much. I simply can’t get enough roasted garlic! So that became my starting point to building this salad. Traditional elements such as crisped rustic bread, tomatoes, red onions and basil are all here. And I added in some mixed greens and buffalo mozzarella.
The tomatoes are really the star of the show here. So make sure you have good ones. In the thick of summertime, tomatoes from your garden or local farmers market are the best choice. But you can also find reliably good heirloom or vine-ripened tomatoes at your grocery store nowadays. Even a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes would do the job in a pinch.
- For the Salad
- 2 heads of garlic
- 4 cups rustic Italian or French bread, cut into cubes (day old bread is great for this)
- 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 4-5 medium sized tomatoes
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 cups mixed greens
- 5 ounces buffalo mozzarella, cut into cubes
- For the Dressing
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Reserved tomato juice
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- Roast the garlic. Using a sharp knife, remove the top portion of the garlic heads, exposing the individual cloves. Place the garlic cut side up on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle each garlic head with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and then fold over the aluminum foil to cover the tops. Place the garlic in your cold oven. Turn the oven on to 300 degrees. After 30 minutes, uncover the garlic, drizzle with another teaspoon of olive oil and roast for an additional 45 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven and let it cool slightly. Once it’s cool enough to handle, carefully remove the individual garlic cloves (you can do this with a fork and some gentle squeezing) and place them in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Turn your oven up to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes and chopped red onion with the thyme leaves, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet and roast in your pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. The bread should be lightly colored and crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes into large chunks. Place the chopped tomatoes in a colander or strainer which is placed over a bowl (you want to collect the juices from the tomatoes). Sprinkle the chopped tomatoes with 1/4 tsp. salt, toss gently and let them sit for about 5-10 minutes.
- To make the dressing, whisk all of the ingredients together, including the reserved tomato juices.
- To assemble the panzanella salad, place the roasted bread cubes and onions in a large bowl. Add all of the dressing and toss to combine. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the dressing. Add the roasted garlic cloves, chopped tomatoes, mixed greens, basil leaves and buffalo mozzarella. Toss gently to combine. Serve immediately. Dream of summer.
1. This salad is very flexible. Would you prefer more tomatoes? Then toss in an extra one or two. Want to add some chickpeas for protein? Go right ahead. You really can’t go wrong here.
2. Panzanella salad really has to be enjoyed right away or else the bread gets overly mushy. Mushy bread is not very delicious, in my humble opinion.
3. Tomatoes should NEVER be stored in the refrigerator. I cannot stress this enough. Putting them in the refrigerator will lead to unwanted changes in their texture and flavor. Leave them out on your counter top.
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