Green Panzanzella

Try this hearty summer salad, green panzanella with cucumber, zucchini, feta and basil. 

Whole Grain Green Panzanella

Have you ever caught yourself eating a nice, light vegetable salad and thought to yourself, "Tasty, but you know would make this salad better? Big 'ole hunks of toasty, crusty, olive oily bread!"

If so, I think you'll like panzanella. Also, you're my kind of person.

Panzanella is a Tuscan salad, traditionally made with stale bread, tomatoes, onions, and lots of oil and vinegar dressing. It's the second most delicious thing you can make with fresh, heirloom tomatoes (the first most delicious is my chopped Caprese salad).

But as you can tell from the photos, there are no tomatoes in this panzanella. Our tomatoes are still green on the vine (who else started singing Strawberry Wine?), we've got a refrigerator full of zucchini and probably will for the next four months. That is, unless someone (ahem, Scott) forgets to weed the garden yet again.

Bread Salad with Zucchini and Cucumber

So, as you can tell from my most recent postings, we've been eating a lotta zucchini around here. When you eat a lot of the same thing, it's easy to get bored. Keep things interesting by changing how you chop them. Instead of cutting cauliflower into florets, try cutting it into steaks. Rather than slicing cucumbers and peppers into slices for your salad, cut them into teeny tiny cubes, Israeli salad style. And for zucchini, try shredding, noodling or as in this salad, slicing paper thin with a mandolin. It completely changes the flavors and textures.

On a related note, have you seen the new vegetable butcher column on The Kitchn? I have learned SO much from it.

[Tweet "A gorgeous green twist on classic panzanella! by @RHartleyRD"]

Anyway, back to this salad. Being a bread salad and all, as you can imagine it's an important ingredient. No, sandwich bread won't work here. Just don't. You'll definitely want to splurge on a nice, whole grain loaf with a good crust and chew. If you don't have a local bakery, I am a huge fan of Trader Joes whole wheat pane. If you're getting bread from the bakery, check the ingredients list. Most grocery store "multigrain" loaves are just white bread with a sprinkle of seeds and grains on the crust.

Green Panzanella
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 4-5
To help stale your bread, cut it into cubes and leave it out overnight. If making in advance, store bread and dressing separate from the salad and mix before serving.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb day old crusty whole grain bread, cut into bite sized cubes
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 small Persian cucumbers
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Instructions
  1. Set oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spray bread with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Toast for 10 minutes until lightly toasted and warm. Set aside to cool.
  3. While bread is toasting, using a mandoline, slice zucchini, cucumbers and red onion into paper thin rounds. Combine in a large bowl with cannelini beans and basil. Mix in the bread cubes.
  4. Mix olive oil and vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss to combine. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving and up to an hour. Toss in feta right before serving.