The scent of summer is laced in the warm evening breeze that’s floating through my open kitchen window. A familiar seasonal scent that conjures visions of lush salads, grilled stone fruit, cherry pie and fresh made sangria. Weekend evenings are spent shuffling between the garden and the kitchen, washing my fresh produce in preparation for dinner, while Spotify is playing softly in the background some of our new favorite summer music mixes. Oh how I love these barefoot, slightly warm and breezy evenings.
For pre-dinner festivities, I set out a little tray of Bruno’s Crostini and Chianti wine for sipping while Ranger Craig and I are mingling in the kitchen chatting, laughing, and making dinner.
This evenings meal is simple and fresh. A Summer Garden Panzanella Salad. I call it a Summer Garden Panzanella because it’s not quite traditional in that it includes whatever is in season in my garden, along with the usual suspects of cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella.
On occasion I’ll slow roast the tomatoes and peppers for a richer, sweeter flavor and sometimes I simply slice it up fresh and toss it all together; using any additional fresh herbs I might have on hand. I think Panzanella is best when served fresh, however, I always toast my bread cubes so the leftovers hold well one more day in the fridge (If by chance we have leftovers).
I’ve listed my basic recipe but you can certainly customize to your tastes. Panzanella recipes can be found with all sorts of vinaigrettes, but I like it best with the traditional balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a splash of lemon.
Cheers to walking around barefoot, chilled sangria, warm breezes, summer sunshine and all things delicious from the garden!
Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,
1 loaf ciabatta, focaccia, or your favorite loaf, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup sliced fresh red, yellow or orange peppers (optional)
1 cup baby asparagus tips (optional)
1 cup sliced cucumber (optional)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red or sweet onion (optional, for a little zing)
1 container of small mozzarella balls (Bocconcini)
1 large bunch of fresh basil, chiffonade or chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon
Good quality aged balsamic vinegar
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
Grated parmesan for garnish
Heat the oven to 350F.
In a small saucepan gently heat the olive oil. When the oil is warm but not too hot, add the garlic and salute for one minute.
Toss the garlic oil over the bread cubes and then spread the bread cubes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for just about 5-10 minutes, until toasty but not too hard.
Remove the bread from the oven and sprinkle the cubes with a bit of salt. Your kitchen will smell so good by now!
While you are letting the bread cubes cool, assemble the salad.
Gently toss the fresh veggies with the basil and mozzarella and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and splash of lemon. Then toss in the bread cubes and drizzle the salad with vinegar and oil, tossing to combine. Serve with fresh grated parmesan.
You can serve the salad immediately or let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Because the bread is toasted, this salad holds well.
Serve this salad as a lunch or light dinner or pair it with your favorite grilled fish, chicken, pork or beef.