While most folks spend their summer months daydreaming about vacation and the beach, I spend mine daydreaming about this:
Biting into the perfect peach, juices oozing down my chin
Picking the perfect tomato that needs little more than a dash of salt and a splash of balsamic
Tossing olive oil on stale bread and giving it new life
Luckily, since it is summer, this daydream can easily be turned into reality, right in my very own kitchen with a delicious peach and heirloom tomato panzanella salad. While a salad is a lovely creation, panzanella a salad based on stale bread is a genius creation. How often have we purchased a loaf of fresh bread and realized it’s gone stale a few days later? I promise a little water, a little olive oil, a little vinegar is all it takes to give your stale bread new purpose.
While this salad can be made year round to rescue stale bread, I love it best in summer when tomatoes are in season. And even though the traditional Italian panzanella is based on tomatoes and bread, I can’t resist topping it off with my favorite summer fruit. Since peaches are meant to be satisfyingly bitten into, I like to halve them instead of chopping them up. A quick sear on a skillet or grill will you get you some beautiful caramelization and extra presentation points. This is definitely a step that can skipped for everyday preparation but will be sure to impress dinner guests. For days when I’m having this as a complete meal, I also toss in some cannellini beans from extra protein. Dressed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette, my daydreams can also be your dinner.
- Stale (of not) French or Italian bread (e.g., pugliese, ciabatta, French baguette, etc.)
- Heirloom tomatoes - 2
- Persian cucumber - 2 to 3
- Red onion - 1 small
- Basil leaves - small handful
- Peaches - 4
- Cannellini beans - 1 can
- Balsamic vinegar - 2 tbs.
- Olive oil - 4 tbs.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- (If you're not using stale bread, skip this step) Run bread under some water and then bake in the oven for about 10 minutes either right on the rack or on a baking sheet. This step is meant to soften up the stale bread - this method can always be used to breathe new life into old bread. While bread is baking, chop salad ingredients (3 to 5)
- Chop heirloom tomatoes into cubes
- Chop persian cucumber into cubes
- Chop red onion into thin slices
- Chop basil leaves into ribbons
- After 10 minutes, take bread out of the oven and slice into cubes (like you're making large croutons). Toss with olive oil (~1 tbs. / 4 cups of bread cubes) and some kosher salt. Spread out onto a baking sheet and bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. While croutons are baking, prepare the peaches
- The peaches can either be chopped into small cubes or sliced in half and grilled or seared. If you're planning on doing the latter, brush some olive oil onto the flat side of the peaches and place onto a hot grill or hot pan for about 1 to 2 minutes
- Open, drain, and rinse can of cannellini beans
- When bread is done, whisk together balsamic vinegar, a pinch of kosher salt, and olive oil. Toss all ingredients together. If you chose to sear / grill the peaches, then place those on top of your salad and garnish with some basil leaves
Other stone fruits: Peaches aren't the only stone fruits that can be used in this salad. Apricots, plums, pluots, or nectarines are also great candidates - all can be seared / grilled
When it's not summer: A fall / winter version of this salad can be made with roasted winter squashes. Butternut squash roasted with sage would be a great substitute for those summer heirloom tomatoes
Low-carb: If you're trying to stay away from carbs, make this exact same salad with tofu instead of bread. Cube super-firm tofu, toss with oil and kosher salt, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Everything else can be done the same way!