|A beauty it was.. all crispedy on the outside, fresh bready goodness on the inside - about a week ago. I had failed to utilize this loverly loaf of bread as I had planned and now I was stuck with an almost rock hard paperweight. Okay, well not exactly. I had been craving Panzanella with an unbridled passion so I might have abandoned my loaf all week but it was with a purpose. I just didn't think that I'd end up waiting a whole damn week to satisfy that craving. Go figure.|
A true Panzanella is not made with croutons - it's made with a day old loaf of good crusty country type of Italian white bread that is torn up into bite size pieces and soaked in water for a bit before added to a salad of tomatoes and onions - all doused in a delicious mixture of vinegars and olive oil. That true version is what I was raised upon courtesy of my dad. Although fantastically delicious, I tend to prefer a more crispy and chewy bread in this salad, so I normally dice up my bread, toss it in olive oil with salt and pepper and then bake it to achieve that crispedy goodness. When the dressing of my salad soaks into the newly made croutons they stay crispy yet they develop a good chew - which is really what makes me crave Panzanella, as I don't normally use croutons in my every day salads.
Yesterday's Panzanella was way different. It's not tomato season here yet, so finding a good tasting tomato to be the star (next to the croutons, of course!) wasn't going to happen AND I had myself a fridge full of yummy salad fixings that were calling out to me. This delightful lunch of mine was more like a chop salad with home made croutons, rather than a Panzanella - so I dub thee, Chopzanella. :D
For the Croutons
1 loaf of crusty white bread (I used French bread as it looked so much better than the Italian that was offered at my store)
Olive oil (Enough to coat the bread but not soak it completely)
1 tsp. garlic powder (Optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the Dressing
1/2 cup of good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of a good, aged balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. garlic salt
Onions, sliced (Red onions are the best, but I only had green onions)
Baby cucumbers, rough dice (Or if particularly small, sliced)
Yellow Bell Pepper, rough dice
Orange Bell Pepper, rough dice
Fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Slice the bread in about 1/2 inch slices, then dice each slice to bite size. In a large bowl, combine the bread, EVOO, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 10 minutes, or until a light golden brown.
In the same large bowl you used to coat the bread, place your chopped veggies and parsley.
In a container that has a tight lid, pour the olive oil and balsamic. Shake vigorously until emulsified. Or you can do this with a whisk, but I find shaking is more fun :D
Once the croutons are ready, throw a good amount of them in with the veggies and sprinkle the 2 tsps. garlic salt over, then the emulsified EVOO & vinegar. Toss thoroughly.
Plate the salad, trying not to horde all the croutons as you will get yelled at by your Hubbs. :D Enjoy!
If you can restrain yourself, unlike myself, let the dressed salad sit for an hour so the croutons can soak up the yumminess.