This post was originally published here on May 29, 2013. I’ve since updated the photos and text.
It’s my Birthday!
I’m 37 years old today. And apparently, I’m celebrating my most recent successful trip around the sun by re-visiting this recipe for Panzanella Salad with Roasted Garlic. It’s a dish that first appeared here on the blog over 4 year ago. And it’s one that I still love to make and enjoy all Summer long.
So…is this what 37 looks like? Is my choosing to post a sensible salad recipe on my Birthday, instead of a towering three-tiered cake covered with chocolate frosting and sprinkles, indicative of old age? Or maturity? Or senility?
Honestly, I’m not sure. But whatever the reason, I’m OK with it. Because I’m pleased to report that 37 actually feels pretty gosh darn good.
So, let’s chat about this salad. It’s a recreation of a dish that I enjoyed (i.e. devoured) at a tiny Italian restaurant on Orcas Island several years ago, back when I was living in the state Washington. And while I can’t remember everything about that exact dish, their use of whole roasted garlic cloves in the salad is what stood out most in my mind. It’s what made their panzanella salad different from those I had eaten in the past. And it’s a trick that I’ve now adopted at home to help take my panzanella salads over the top.
The rest of this salad is composed of your typical Summer staples: juicy tomatoes (get heirlooms if you can!), fresh basil and tender mixed greens. And of course, we can’t forget about the toasted bread cubes. I mean, it wouldn’t really be a panzanella salad without the bread. I usually buy a loaf of whatever happens to catch my eye at the bakery that week. An Italian Pugliese or French Boule are always sensible choices. But don’t be afraid to play with different types of bread. I’ve learned from past experiments that rye bread can really add an extra punch of flavor. Or try cornbread if you need to make a gluten-free version.
This isn’t one of those salads that you can just toss together in a few minutes. It takes time to roast the garlic and prepare the other ingredients. But it’s totally worth it for those nights when you have a little bit of extra wiggle room in your schedule. Because the layers of flavors here are seriously on point.
The original version of this recipe included some buffalo mozzarella, but I’ve since started enjoying it sans cheese. Skipping the mozzarella makes this recipe vegan (just be sure to check the ingredient label on your bread), which means I get to save my “dairy points” for things like ice cream or strawberry shortcake with fancy whipped cream. Because at 37 years of age, I’m learning that life is all about balance.