I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but Summer! Fresh produce! Farmer’s markets! Vegetables! Well, please forgive me, but the best thing about summer (for me) is the abundance of gorgeous, local veggies. I just love them, and this salad highlights the best of two worlds: salads and sandwiches. I bring you Panzanella.
If you’ve never had a panzanella before, well, you’re in for a real treat! Panzanella is a Tuscan dish that is traditionally made of day old bread, tomatoes and sometimes onions and basil with an oil and vinegar dressing. That’s it. It’s basically a bread and tomato salad. This Italian staple is fresh, vibrant and oh-so summery. If that wasn’t enough, we’re adding bacon and arugula to this variation, and you have BLT Panzanella. You know how I feel about arugula (yum!), and it’s a perfect match for this salad. I don’t know about you, but I love BLT sandwiches. They are one of my mom’s favorites, and they always seemed so sophisticated to my little girl palate. Growing up I was not a fan of tomatoes, so my mom would make my brother and I “BLTs”, as in “bacon, lettuce and toast”. I always felt so fancy eating them, and they remain a favorite of mine to this day.
This salad is inspired by one I saw in my Food52 cookbook, and I knew I had to make it as soon as I found the perfect tomatoes. I put my own spin on the salad by roasting the tomatoes for a few minutes, just until they began to char and started to burst. Roasting already sweet cherry tomatoes just intensifies their flavor. Add those to the bacon and toasted bread cubes, toss with a bright lemon balsamic vinaigrette, and add the arugula. Balsamic vinegar and tomatoes go together like peas and carrots, and the lemon complimented the peppery arugula just perfectly. You guys. I could not believe how good this was. Isn’t that always the way? You really can’t go wrong with in season vegetables, crusty, toasted ciabatta and smoky bacon. Don’t skimp on the bacon here, quality matters.
The individual components of this dish can be made ahead of time, and stored separately. When ready to serve, gently toss the bread cubes with the bacon, add some of the vinaigrette, and toss. Add tomatoes and arugula and toss again, adding in more dressing as desired. The tomatoes can be cold, room temperature or slightly warm. I liked them slightly warm, as it wilted the arugula ever so slightly.
I hope you try this soon – if you love BLTs, I know you’ll love this dish! Add a glass of crisp white wine, and enjoy late summer’s bounty.
BLT Panzanella with roasted tomatoes.
inspired and adapted from the Food52 cookbook.
1/2 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (day old is best, but not required)
1.5 cups small cherry tomatoes (halved if on the larger side)
3 ounces thick sliced bacon
3 large handfuls baby arugula
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper
Lemon Balsamic dressing:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice from one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons balsamic dressing
1 garlic clove, minced or crushed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Makes about one cup of dressing. Leftoves can stored in the refrigerator up to one week.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add bread cubes to large baking sheet and toast in oven for about 10-15 minutes until they are golden. Remove and increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
Once oven is up to temperature, add tomatoes to a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes are slightly charred and beginning to burst.
In a medium saute pan, add bacon and cook until slightly crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Once slightly cool, cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
In a small bowl or small jar mix together the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and mustard. Add in olive and oil. Secure with tight fitting lid and shake vigorously until well combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning if necessary. Refrigerate until needed.
In a large bowl, add bread cubes, bacon and 1/3 of the dressing and combine gently. Add in roasted tomatoes and arugula and mix together. Add more dressing if the salad seems dry (you will have dressing left over). Transfer to serving platter and serve immediately. Serves 4.
**Please use all organic ingredients when possible**