We really try to eat seasonally in our house. Part of that is by design because food just tastes better when it’s at its peak (even more so when it’s from your backyard!) But we also eat seasonally out of necessity because our Minnesota growing season is so short. I occasionally make dishes out of season if I find some can’t-be-beat produce at the store. But never Panzanella. This salad is summer in my mouth. There is simply no comparison during any other time of year.
I can (and do!) eat this Panzanella salad a few times a week during the summer. It’s my go-to when friends come for lunch, and it packs well for field trips and picnics with the kids. I’ve made it as one large salad for gatherings as well as kept the prepped bread and other ingredients separate in order to create individual portions throughout the week. I usually let my bread cubes bake a little longer than some so they are extra crunchy and retain a little bite after the dressing is added. Speaking of the dressing, it couldn’t be simpler to prepare, and the briny capers give a deliciously salty kick to the balsamic vinaigrette. Find the freshest tomatoes and mozzarella you can, and you’ll be rewarded with all the flavors of summer in one bite.
½ red onion, thinly sliced and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
⅔ cup fresh basil, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place baguette pieces in a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Spread bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 15-18 minutes or to desired degree of toastiness, stirring once. Set aside to cool.
Combine ½ teaspoon salt, garlic, balsamic vinegar and capers in a small bowl. Gently whisk in ⅓ cup olive oil until combined. Set aside.
Stir together bread cubes, tomatoes, onion, mozzarella and basil Pour balsamic vinaigrette over bread cube mixture and stir to coat. Allow the salad to sit 30 minutes before serving.
This salad can be made up to two hours ahead. Keep chilled in refrigerator until ready to serve.