As a last ditch effort to use what's left of summer's premium produce, I decided to make my grilled vegetable panzanella salad. I created this recipe back in July to showcase the flavors that summer's bounty has to offer. (I made it as part of the picnic spread I prepared for my mom when I took her to Central Park.) Granted, with fall officially upon us, the produce is no longer at its peak, but I wanted to share this recipe with all of you before it was too late! I had never actually had a panzanella salad when I made this one, but they always seemed so tempting. Maybe it's all in the name... PAN-ZA-NELLA. There is something seductive about it, in one way or another. Every recipe I've run across, however, was, well... uninteresting. Nothing that made my taste buds dance in anticipation.
I wanted to create a panzanella that was the epitome of summer. It needed to incorporate fresh flavors and a variety of textures with minimal effort. I am a firm believer that humans not only eat with their mouths, but also with their eyes. If something doesn't look appetizing, you don't necessarily want to eat it, right? So, it was also important to me to use as many different colors as possible. Red tomatoes, orange peppers, yellow corn, green asparagus, purple onion... I think the only main color I'm missing is blue, but I challenge you to find a blue vegetable. To up the ante on that summer time feeling, I threw the corn, asparagus, and peppers on the grill (or in my case, a stove-top grill pan, because, well, I live in New York City and that's all I have to work with- a good enough substitute I suppose).
Panzanella literally means "bread-salad". While most recipes use cubed ciabatta, tossed together with various ingredients and an emulsion of red wine vinegar and oil, I thought a slightly crunchier bread would lend a more interesting texture. I toasted the ciabatta cubes just to the point where the exterior developed a nice crust, but maintained a chewy interior. I definitely didn't want to turn them into croutons, or the salad would have become something else entirely. I tossed these with the colorful spectrum of veggies, fresh herbs, some parmesan, and a white wine vinaigrette. Voila! Summer all wrapped up into one bite!
Grilled Vegetable Panzanella
1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into bite size cubes
extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 pound asparagus
1 corn cob
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 orange bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 to 1/2 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano (depending on your preference)
freshly ground black pepper
*White Wine Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
1. Preheat the over to 350°F. Place ciabatta cubes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic salt on top. Toast bread in the oven for 10-12 minutes or just until the bread starts to crisp, but stays chewy inside.
2. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil on the corn, asparagus, and bell pepper (or spray with vegetable spray for a lower fat alternative). Place on a pre-heated grill or stove-top grill pan and cook until tender and slightly charred, about 5-10 minutes.
3. Shave the corn kernels off the cob and cut the asparagus and bell pepper into bite size pieces.
4. Combine the bread, tomatoes, asparagus, corn, onion, bell pepper, parsley, and basil in a large bowl. Drizzle with the white wine vinaigrette and top with freshly ground black pepper and shaved Parmigiano. Serve immediately.
Makes 2-3 entree sized servings.
White Wine Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Mix the wine, lemon juice, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor. With the machine still running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette with more salt and pepper, if desired.