I've always been hesitant to try panzanella (an Italian salad, typically made with tomatoes and stale bread). I assumed that if you let pieces of bread, even stale or toasted bread, soak in a vinaigrette, they would get soggy. And that just sounded completely gross to me. However, when I saw the picture of this recipe in Ina Garten's new cookbook I decided it was time to try it.
This recipe combines the typical ingredients of a Greek salad with chunks of toasted bread. And, WOW, is it good!!! Briny olives, salty feta, fresh vegetables. And the bread.... Oh, the bread! The bread ended up being my favorite part! Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and full of so much flavor - not only from the dressing, but also from the vegetables that it marinates with. I already can't wait to make this one again!
Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips, Ina Garten
3/4 cup good olive oil, divided
6 cups (1-inch) diced rustic bread
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and large-diced
1 yellow red bell pepper, seeded and large-diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 pound good feta cheese, 3/4-inch-diced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan until hot. Add the bread and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Set aside.
Place the cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onion in a large bowl and toss together.
For the vinaigrette, place the vinegar, garlic, oregano, mustard, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl and whisk together. Whisking constantly, slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil to make an emulsion.
Add the feta, olives, and bread to the vegetables in the bowl, add the vinaigrette, and toss lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to develop. Season to taste and serve at room temperature.