I have to admit that it took me a while to warm up to the idea of panzanella. Stale bread in a salad? It sounds weird. I get it.
But I'm usually of the mindset that I'll try anything at least once, as long as it doesn't have a face or a mom. Plus panzanella originates from Italy and I think they've got the food thing figured out. So I finally caved in to all of this Tuscan summery bread salad business and let me just say, I feel like I've been missing out for a long time.
The grilled bread absorbs the dressing, making it like a crunchy crouton that pops with flavor. I think I was hesitant at first because I was worried that it might be mushy, but as long as you take the time to properly dehydrate it (by grilling or baking in the oven) then it's able to sustain a firmer texture.
The beauty of panzanella is that it's an incredibly versatile dish, allowing you to substitute whatever produce you might have on hand. I've found my favorite combination to be what I consider some of summer's best produce: fresh corn with juicy tomatoes and poblano peppers.
Throwing the corn and poblano pepper on the grill is an easy way to cook them and also maximize their flavor. If you don't have a grill, you can also cook them on a grill pan on the stove.
In addition to the tomatoes, corn and pepper, we're using red onion, fresh basil and creamy avocado in the mix. Then all of that gets tossed in a simple dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil and white wine vinegar. The whole thing comes together super quick and is perfect to serve at a get together or as a light dinner on a warm summer evening.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus extra for brushing
- 2 ears of fresh corn husked
- 1 large poblano pepper
- ½ small red onion peeled
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice about 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces romaine lettuce chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 avocado pitted and diced
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- ½ large sourdough baguette cut into 1-inch slices
- Prepare a barbecue grill or grill pan to medium heat and it brush with oil. Lightly brush the corn, poblano pepper and onion with oil, and then place them on the grill and cook for about 8-10 minutes, rotating every 2 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, in a measuring cup or small bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the romaine lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, and fresh basil, and then set aside.
- Once the vegetables are evenly cooked on each side, remove them from the heat and set aside. Allow the vegetables to cool for a few minutes before handling. Using a sharp knife, slice the corn off of the cob and chop the red onion. Add the corn and onion to the large bowl with the lettuce. Slice the poblano pepper away from the core, and remove the seeds and any overly charred parts from the skin. Chop the pepper and add to the bowl as well.
- Lightly brush the bread with olive oil then cook on the grill or grill pan over medium heat for a few minutes on each side, until golden. Chop the bread into cubes then add them to the bowl. Pour the dressing over top and toss everything together. Serve warm and enjoy!