There’s a running joke between my mom and I about her method of eating salads. She commonly orders salads when we go out to lunch, and then proceeds to eat everything except the lettuce. To me, this completely defeats the purpose of ordering a salad. As I see it, it’s a way to eat my greens and hopefully some other tasty things as well. For my mom, it’s ALL about the toppings.
Whenever I make panzanella salads, which in most cases have zero greens and instead are loaded with bread, I think of my mom. It’s really her ideal salad, plus additional carbs which I know she would be a fan of. She can eat the entire thing and not have to pick around all of that silly lettuce.
My recipe for Italian Panzanella is basically like a chopped Italian salad, minus the lettuce and plus some toasted bread. I filled it with diced salami, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, red onion, chickpeas, and a tangy Italian Vinaigrette.
My secret to a really stellar panzanella is toasting the bread cubes in a combination of olive oil and butter. You can do this in the oven or on the stovetop, though in a skillet on the stove is my preferred method.
The chunks of bread become golden brown and a little crispy on the outside, while remaining chewy and soft on the inside. It also helps the bread stand up to the dressing of the panzanella salad, without getting soggy.
That said, this salad is definitely best the day of. While we happily ate leftovers the next day, they weren’t quite as crispy as the first day.
The combination of flavors and textures is simply delicious. I can see this being a perfect potluck dish, a summer BBQ side dish, or if you’re like us – a complete meal!