Caesar, meet panzanella.
I knew the two would get along wonderfully.
Caesar gifted the toasted bread side of things, a sprinkling of parmesan, lemon and some salad greens. Panzanella tempered the crunch of that bread with some basil vinaigrette, and generously donated some super fresh tomatoes. Then Zo threw in some olives and goats halloumi (from Gruff Junction) because she likes them both. Actually, this is like the bruschetta I posted about a few days ago in salad form, dressed up a little more, to make a fully fledged meal (I made this on the same day…ahem, I can’t get enough of fresh tomatoes when late spring finally hits and tomatoes become edible and affordable again!). It’s still quite light, making it perfect for dinner during a sunny evening, but the parmesan, goats cheese and olives gives it plenty of mmm. I also found a tiny little bit of avocado lying around, so threw that in.
Initially I was worried I had thrown too many different things into the bowl, but the end result was just lovely. I love the way the croutons soaked up the dressing and this softened their hardness, so they provided a little crunch but not so much as to make your gums want to surrender. It also made the salad less prone to “splashing,” which makes for elegant eating (so underrated for salads…I’m sure everyone has tried eating a lettuce leaf the size of one’s head at a restaurant, with some dismay…and don’t tell me you’re going to cut every leaf either!). The point is not to be scared by the list of ingredients, as many of the things can be omitted or changed if you want – just think of what the primary taste is and sub in whatever you have lying around. Just remember you want a good balance of refreshing (from the greens), sweet, sour and salty.
Panzanella and caesar style salad
Serves 4 as a generous side or 2 large appetites for dinner
- 4 slices crusty bread, such as ciabatta or sourdough (NOT sandwich bread)
- 3-4 Tbs olive or cooking oil for frying bread
- about 4 small handfuls various salad greens/lettuces
- 4-5 super fresh and ripe in-season tomatoes, sliced into sixths or eighths
- At least one of the following: about 100g cubed feta and/or halloumi (preferably of the goat variety), and/or 1/3c pitted kalamata olives, and/or 25g freshly grated Italian parmesan (do not use supermarket stuff, unless you like it)
- optional: bite sized bits of avocado
- about 1/4c olive (cold pressed extra virgin stuff is welcome here) or cooking oil
- 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- At least one: about 5 basil leaves and/or small handful flat parsley, finely chopped
- At least one: freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon and/or approx 3Tbs white wine vinegar or vinegar brine from olives
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat first lot of oil on medium low heat, and once hot, place slices on a single layer and flip once undersides are golden brown. Add garlic to the pan. Resume cooking until second side is also golden brown. Remove from pan and cool on a rack whilst preparing other ingredients. Chop garlic finely, and add to rest of dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
Toss remaining salad ingredients in a very large bowl. Cut cooled bread slices into cubes, and mix into salad. Drizzle over dressing, and serve any time within the next hour.