a panzanella caprese salad for summer

by Sam on February 25, 2013

panzanella caprese salad

Trying to choose a name for this salad I did some online research in an attempt to discover what a ‘classic’ Panzanella salad consists of. Some included mozzarella, some not. Some had cucumber and some had olives. I don’t have complete clarity on the issue, but with all things in cooking, just trust your instincts and make what you like.

My version is a chopped up Caprese salad mixed with golden chunks of fried bread, finely sliced red onions, and its utterly delicious.

panzanella caprese salad

This sort of salad is my ultimate kind of lunch. I could probably eat it every day and never get bored. The flavours are bold and marry so perfectly with each other. Its summer on a plate and party in your mouth.

There are a few things I do that I think make a difference to the success of this salad:

1. I always ripen my tomatoes out of the fridge. I sometimes put them in the sun or a sunny spot in my kitchen and I don’t mind one bit if they start to wrinkle. This tells me that they are at their peak in terms of ripening, and it is only at this point that I may put them in my fridge to stop this process and preserve them a little longer. The result is a very juicy and sweeter tomato that is perfect for this salad.

2. I love to use a good artisan loaf of bread. My preference would be sourdough or in this case a sourdough rye. I want the bread for this salad to have some bite and texture to it. A pre-sliced and processed loaf would be completely out of the question. I like to cut the bread rind off and only use the inner part.

3. The dressing is so simple and only consists of two ingredients, so I choose a really good quality red wine vinegar and the best extra virgin olive oil I can find in my cupboard.

3. I love the crunchy taste of a natural sea salt flakes and this is a crucial element to the dish. Don’t be shy with it.

4. As for mozzarella, do I need to even mention that a proper fior di latte is the only way forward here. Soft and silky, it balances out the sharpness of the tomatoes and onions.

5. Garlic. I do love it but there are times when I simply don’t feel like its intense presence or having garlic breath. I think 1/4  or 1/2 a clove would be wonderful in this salad, but on this occasion I left it out.

I don’t have accurate measurements for this salad, just make however much you want.

for the salad:

  • about 2 cups of sliced ripe cherry or rosa tomatoes or whatever you have around
  • half a red onion very finely sliced
  • a small handful of basil shredded or finely sliced into ribbons
  • about 2 cups of cubed sourdough bread (edges and rind cut off)- stale is best
  • olive oil
  • about 1 T of butter
  • 1 x 150g fior di latte mozzarella ball
  • red wine vinegar and olive oil for the dressing
  • 1/2 a crushed garlic clove (optional and could be very nice)
  • sea salt flakes

First up, slice the tomatoes and put them in your bowl with the finely sliced onions, a sprinkle of salt and toss them around a bit. You want to release some of the juice which will then interact with the red onion. This delicious liquid forms part of the dressing that gets soaked in the bread.

Then move onto cutting the bread into cubes and heating a non stick frying pan. Add a generous splash of olive oil and when hot, fry the bread turning over and tossing them so that you fry as many of the sides as possible. Once it is looking quite done, add the butter around the edges of the pan to evenly distribute it and then toss the bread around. This just gives them more flavour and turns them into more delicious crunchy golden croutons. Allow to cool slightly, or add them warm.

When you are ready to eat, add the bread to the tomato and onion mix, and toss this with the basil, red wine vinegar and olive oil and more salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix, taste and adjust until its perfect and just the way you like it. Serve on top of slices of the mozzarella (I find if you toss it through the salad too much it tends to mess it up and make it quite white), or places a few strips in and around the salad.

panzanella and caprese salad

panzanell and caprese salad

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Leave a Comment

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

suzanne Perazzini February 25, 2013 at 7:08 am

You have combined a couple of Italian salads and made a beautiful new one. It looks so colourful and healthy and I can almost taste all those flavours together. Now that I have perfected a tapioca flour bread, I could absolutely make this.

Kimberly May February 25, 2013 at 7:29 am

I think this might be on the dinner recipe next weekend!

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com February 25, 2013 at 8:18 am

I’m going to just say this — CAN’T WAIT FOR SUMMER!! This recipe screams the season, so well :)

Sam February 25, 2013 at 8:37 am

Hi Kiran, agree. The bread makes it a very wintery salad too.

Carolie de Koster February 25, 2013 at 8:59 am

How gorgeous this is Sam! And can you believe it – I made my own mini Mozzarella balls (bocconcini) today and skewered them with our mouthwatering baby tomatoes for snacks at midday! My husband took a pic that I will put on Facebook. I am planning a bread and cheese making day when my new kitchen opens here – somewhere in May and this could be the lunch! Thank you! Carolie

Andrew Bonham February 25, 2013 at 10:48 am

This is my favourite salad. We also add anchovies and capers and loads of fresh basil. Bon apetit!

Sam February 25, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Hi Andrew, Yum – capers and anchovies would be awesome. All my favourite flavours.

Usha February 25, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Love the colors, taste & texture combinations, the pics are so amazing that you feel like picking up a fork & digging in

Sara {Home is Where the Cookies Are} February 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Ooh, every time I see this kind of salad I want to make it. It’s been on my “to-do” list for such a long time. I really will have to make it now. Like tonight! Thank you for your list of tips too!

Laura (Tutti Dolci) March 1, 2013 at 7:34 am

I’d give anything for summer tomatoes right now to make this salad. Gorgeous, will be making it come summer!

Emily @dishtell.com March 4, 2013 at 1:01 am

I love your photographs! Great blog, I am glad I found it. Subscribed!

<3 Em

Sam March 4, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Thanks Emily :-)

Liz March 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I’ve just stumbled across your blog, and it’s now going to be a firm fave on my RSS feeds. As I live in Malta, central Med, we’ve a climate comparable to yours. This particular salad is one I’ll have to wait just a little for as our tomatoes aren’t quite ripe. But then, I can see it being eaten in quantities as our tom season is 6 months when it gets going! I watched some Tuscan friends make it from stale bread – it’s a down-to-earth a salad as that, but like you, I couldn’t quite nail the ingredients when I looked it up post hols and when back home. I think the Italians just use up whatever is in the fridge, and as Med bread is stale by the next day (the traditional sort anyway), this is a god-send salad! Thanks for reminding me of it before our summer hits.

Sam March 4, 2013 at 3:57 pm

HI Liz, glad you like it, and I have been craving it almost every day since I did this post. You are very lucky to live in a country with such nice tomatoes, we really struggle here in South Africa, which is why I try and ripen mine as long as possible to bring out the sweetness. But I dream of tomatoes from the Med all the time
S :-)

Kim March 6, 2013 at 8:12 am

I made this salad last night – it was delicious. Thanks for the simple and inspiring recipe.

Sam March 6, 2013 at 8:25 am

Thanks Kim, glad you enjoyed :-)

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