When I wrote my recent post about my “Hearty and Refreshing” Arugula Salad, I definitely struggled over the title. Are “hearty” and “refreshing” oxymoronic? And if so, how better to describe a salad which is at once light, zesty and supremely satisfying? And now, I give you another data point to consider: a hearty salad with a cornucopia of flavors, all harmonizing beautifully, which both sates and invigorates.
Panzanella is a wonderful concept — using day-old or even stale bread to make a fantastic and substantial salad — and can be endlessly varied. A former classmate of mine from Needham (another Sweet Basil adherent, perhaps?) offers both a traditional recipe and some ideas for variants on her blog, Two Blue Lemons. As for me, I don’t see much need for tweaking with this recipe, which combines savory roasted garlic, tangy marinated onions, sweet mozzarella and lots of fresh herbs. While both the garlic and the onions take their own time and instructions to make, I recommend making the full batches outlined below and saving any extras for future creations.
Panzanella, from The Sweet Basil Cookbook – [Printable Recipe]
1 recipe balsamic vinaigrette
6 generous handfuls mixed greens
1 cup roasted garlic
2 (8 oz) balls fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1 Tbs. marinated onions
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, wedged [I used cherry tomatoes]
2 roasted red peppers, sliced in 1/4 inch strips
1 c. kalamata olives, pitted
1 c. croutons
Fresh basil, chiffonade, for garnish
Fresh parsley, chiffonade, for garnish
Shaved cheese (such as Asiago or Parmesan) for garnish
Follow the instructions to prepare the balsamic vinaigrette. In a large bowl, toss the greens with one-half of the balsamic vinaigrette. Then, in a separate bowl, toss the remaining vinaigrette with the roasted garlic, mozzarella, marinated onions, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, olives and croutons. Add this mixture to the mixed greens, tossing to combine.
Evenly distribute the dressed greens among serving plates, and then garnish with the basil, parsley, and cheese. Serve immediately.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard and 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar. Once they are well combined, slowly whisk in 2/3 c. olive oil until it is incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place 4 garlic bulbs [each bulb yields approximately 1/2 cup roasted garlic] with their tops trimmed off by 1/2 inch, cut-side-up, in a casserole dish just big enough to hold the bulbs comfortably. Cover the garlic with 4 cups olive oil, cover the dish with aluminum foil, and then roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the garlic is soft. Remove the dish from the oven and allow the garlic to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oil, and then squeeze the garlic cloves out of the skin, reserving the oil for cooking.
Combine 1 red onion, as thinly sliced as possible, 1 clove of garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.), 1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. fresh basil chiffonade, 1 Tbs. fresh parsley chiffonade, kosher salt and pepper in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to an airtight container.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Arrange 1 pound bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, on a baking sheet, drizzle with some olive oil, and then top with a few pinches of butter and a couple sprinkles of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the bread is brown and crispy, flipping periodically to avoid burning.
If serving the croutons immediately, sprinkle them with a bit of grated parmesan cheese; if saving the croutons for later, transfer them to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week.