I don’t think you can go wrong when one of the largest components of a salad is toasted bread. Do you? On the 4th of July we celebrated with friends for both breakfast and lunch. I was asked to bring salad to the lunch and was more than happy to contribute salad and thereby diminish the large supply of vegetables on hand at our house. (I have been picking up both my weekly CSA as well as my neighbors so we have quite the abundance of vegetables at our house.) After making the fresh sourdough baguettes the previous day, I knew this was the time to give panzanella a try.

If you are not familiar with panzanella, it is a fresh salad that has lots of toasted bread cubes in the salad in lieu of lettuce. Whoever thought of such a concept should be thanked and deserves a big hug! Scrumptious if you ask me. I think the salad was a hit at the get-together and several people asked if it would be making its way onto the blog. I assured them it would. (I wish the picture was a little better because I honestly don’t think it does the salad justice.)

I loved how the vinaigrette is absorbed by the toasted bread. The vinaigrette along with the olive oil that was absorbed in the toasting process…absolutely delicious. When you add that deliciousness with fresh veggies, I don’t think it can bet much better.

*If you are not a carb lover like I am please don’t discount this recipe because the dressing and veggies are quite delicious on their own.

Greek Panzanella

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olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
Kosher salt
1 hothouse cucumber or 3 smaller cucumbers, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, large diced
1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes (I used crumbled feta but think cubes would have looked more elegant.)
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted

For the Vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed.

Toasting the cubed bread in olive oil.

Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar(s), 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Adapted from Ina Garten.