July 29th, 2013
I have a thing for bread in my salad. I love fattoush, a Middle Eastern chopped salad with crispy pita chips. And I LOVE panzanella, an Italian bread and tomato salad. I want there to be other salads with bread, but since I can’t think of any (can you?), I’ll just riff on what I know and love. That’s how this Zucchini Panzanella Salad came to be.
Zucchinis are abundant this time of year, like weeds in in unkempt garden. The end of every summer is marked by contemplation of new ways to use the summer squash, from sweet zucchini muffins to savory zucchini pancakes, from tossing them with noodles to using them instead of noodles. Through my experimentation, I’ve come to learn that, when cut thin, raw zucchini is treat and one of the fastest ways to use the bountiful vegetable.
Other than the addition of thin slivers of zucchini, this is a classic panzanella.
Tomatoes, toasted cubes of bread and basil: that’s all this salad needs. ( I throw a little mint into this version, too!)
I was lucky to find fresh garlic, the kind where the skin hasn’t yet turned to papery wisps, to use in my vinaigrette. Divine.
I also used a combination of heirloom and cherry tomatoes. At this point in the summer, though, you might want to skip the cherry variety. Gorgeous beefsteak and heirloom tomatoes won’t be around for long. This is the time to eat them in large quantities unapologetically.
Oh, and the best thing about this salad is that, if your little one is open to tomatoes, they’ll gobble this up, too. The hungry baby was so excited to find bread in his salad that he ate a whole plate thinking that the zucchini, which he normally doesn’t like, was Oliver-approved cucumber. I cleared the mix up… after he was done eating.
Zucchini Panzanella Salad
(Can be shared with kids 8+ mos)*
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 cups cubed day old crusty bread
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus another 1/4 cup (divided)
Salt, to taste
1 pint cherry tomatoes (you can substitute another 2 full-sized tomatoes)
1 large or 1/2 of a very large fresh zucchini, very thinly sliced (about 2 cups sliced, as with a mandoline)
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
4 drops worcestershire sauce
10-12 basil leaves, washed and cut chiffonade (about 1/4 cup chopped)
10 mint leaves, washed and cut chiffonade (about 1 tablespoon chopped)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place vinegar and lemon juice in a jar that has a tight fitting lid or a small bowl. Add garlic and let sit. The garlic will macerate while you compose the rest of the salad.
2. To make the croutons, toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt to taste. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning the cubes at around 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
3. In the meantime, core and cut full sized tomatoes in half, then into 1/2″ wedges; place in serving bowl. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and slice zucchini; add to serving bowl, as well.
4. To make the dressing, add remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil to the jar or bowl with the garlic. Add dijon, worcestershire, basil and mint, and either shake or whisk to emulsify.
5. Add croutons to the serving bowl and pour dressing over the salad. Season with salt and pepper. Using your hands or two wooden spoons, carefully toss. Let salad sit for 5 minutes before serving.
*Note: This salad is easy to deconstruct, making it a perfect dish to share with little ones already managing finger foods. The croutons will soften the longer they sit in the dressing and tomatoes are a great early finger food. Just make sure that both are cut into age appropriate bite sizes.