Toasted Greek Panzanella

I made you a salad, but instead of lettuce, spinach, or other greenery, I used toasted crusty bread.  You’re welcome.  Panzanella is a Florentine salad that traditionally combines stale, soaked bread with tomatoes and basil, olive oil and vinegar.  Bread that is considered too stale to enjoy by itself is either soaked in water and squeezed dry or soaked in oil and vinegar until it came back to life.  It’s like croutons, but with the old adage waste not, want not, in mind.
For me, though, all I hear is “bread salad.”  A salad with all my favorite flavors and ingredients all soaked up by crusty bread?  That is a winner.  This salad takes all the traditional components of a great Greek salad and throws toasted crusty bread in the mix.  The bread soaks up all the flavors from the dressing and the vegetables and because it is toasted prior, it maintains a crunch.  No one wants soggy bread.

It’s the perfect side dish to any Summer meal, but I enjoyed it with my Baked Greek Chicken Meatballs and plenty of Tzatziki sauce.  Oh, did I also mention it’s incredibly easy to throw together, and that most of the components can be made in advance?  This is Summer, folks.

Let’s make salad!

Start with some veggies.


Half a red onion, sliced very, very thin, 1/2 an English cucumber, sliced in half-moons, 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved, 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin, and about half a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained well and roughly chopped.  Those are our salad vegetables.  Kalamata olives are obviously traditional, but I forgot to buy some like a dope.  Don’t do that.

Toss all the vegetables together and top with a 1/2 pound block of good feta cheese that has been cubed.  Throw that on top, but don’t toss yet.  The more you toss, the more the feta will break up, and I like big chunks of feta instead of crumbles for this salad.
Feta cheese is my life.

Next, mix up your dressing.  In a jar, combine 1 clove of grated or very finely minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon Mustard, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, salt and pepper and 1/4 cup good olive oil.
Put the top on the jar and go to town.  Shake it up until the dressing is well emulsified.  If you are serving right away, go ahead and pour the dressing on top of all the vegetables and feta cheese.

Meanwhile, toast your bread.  Cube up half a loaf of your favorite good, crusty bread.  I used an olive oil boule from my bakery, but a baguette or ciabatta would work just fine.  Toss in a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt then toast under high heat for about 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let the bread slightly cool then add to the salad bowl.
Give the whole thing a good toss, making sure that the vegetables are evenly distributed, the dressing is coating everything, and the bread has started to soak up all that deliciousness.

 

Serve right away so that the bread remains crunchy.  This would be divine as a side dish to any burger night, or make it a Greek feast and follow my lead.  This is Summer’s bounty and bread is holding it together.  Get on board.
While this salad is designed to remain crunchy and toasty, don’t be afraid to eat leftovers the next day.  Sure, the more the bread sits, the more it soaks up all the liquid, but if serving it right away gives it more of a crouton texture, serving it the next day gives it a traditional panzanella vibe.  The bread is soft but not mushy and it has soaked up all that dressing, tomato, cucumber, briny goodness.  I can’t decide which way I enjoyed more!

And there are giant chunks of feta cheese.  So, if you weren’t sold before, you should be now.
Here’s the recipe!

Toasted Greek Panzanella
For the Vinaigrette:
Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients in a jar with a tightly fitting lid.  Place the lid on the jar and mix it well until the dressing is creamy and emulsified.  Store in jar for up to a week.

For the Panzanella:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin in half rounds
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced thin in half-moons
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 boule or french baguette, cut in half and cubed
  • olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1/2 pound block of good feta cheese, cubed
  • Greek Vinaigrette

Method

  1. In a large salad bowl, combine the vegetables.  Toss together.  Add the cubed feta cheese and the vinaigrette.  Gently toss to combine.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spread cubed bread onto a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place in the oven and toast until golden brown, turning as needed.  Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly.  When cooled, add them to the salad bowl.
  3. Toss gently to combine so that the vegetables are evenly distributed and the dressing is coating everything.  Serve immediately alongside your favorite Greek dish!

Enjoy!

 

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