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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Panzanella Salad (Italian Bread Salad)

When people think of salads, they often think about them as accompaniments rather than main courses. However, there are a lot of ways to make a salad a hearty and filling meal. For example, you can add protein like meat, fish, nuts, beans or eggs or you could add a starch like rice, potatoes or pasta.

Today, I am making a Panzanella Salad which is essentially an Italian bread salad. The bread adds a heartiness to this salad making it a great side dish or main course. The bread is also toasted, giving nice texture to the salad while soaking up some of the tasty dressing.

I love this salad because it is full of some many amazing flavours. The salty anchovy adds great depth to the dressing, the olives or capers add tanginess and salt, and all the veggies and basil add a freshness that elevate this from just a simple salad with croutons to something spectacular.

This salad is so easy to make, and with the addition of some protein, makes a great, well rounded meal.

Panzanella Salad
Serves 2 as Main Course (4 as side dish)

2 cups Bread Cubes (1 inch cubes)- Rustic Italian Bread, Sourdough, Ciabatta
3 tbsp (+ Drizzle) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 tbsp Anchovy Paste or 3 Anchovy Fillets
1/2 clove Garlic, minced
1 Small Shallot, chopped
1/2 cup Olives, chopped or 2 tbsp Capers
1 cup Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1/2 Long English Cucumber, large diced
1 Red Pepper, large diced
1/4 cup Basil, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Optional: Top with grilled prawns or chicken or a poached egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the bread cubes with some olive oil and place in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 6-8 minutes, until the bread is toasted. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, anchovy, garlic and shallot. (If using anchovy fillets, use a fork to crush the fillets into the dressing). Add the olives (or capers), tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper and basil. 

When ready to serve, add the toasted bread, toss everything together, and season with salt and pepper (go easy on the salt as the anchovies will have added some to the dressing). Serve immediately, so that the toasted bread remains crunchy.

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