My Take on Panzanella

Recipe to follow, I promise… just bear with my story first!

I’ve been intrigued this week by the idea of making Panzanella, a tomato salad with bread and a vinigrette, and making it more about vegetables than bread. Heidi at 101 Cookbooks has an amazing recipe for a chickpea salad that I’ve made several times this summer already, and I thought maybe I could combine the two ideas.

So with my mind as always full of recipes, I was riding the metro home on Thursday and thinking about vegetables and greens; it happens often. I decided I really wanted to stop by Trader Joe’s and pick up some arugula and mushrooms. I had a yellow summer squash already, and I wanted to use it!

Armed with vegetables, I squeezed myself and my Trader Joe’s bag into my closet-sized mini kitchen and started chopping. I was chickpea-less this week, so it was the perfect chance to experiment with Heidi’s salad.

While I sauteed the zucchini and baby bella mushrooms on medium heat, I pulled out the remnants of a bread I made from bread mix; it seemed like a failed loaf until I noticed that the torn sections of honey wheat berry bread would be the perfect size and texture for salad, like panzanella croutons.

So I toasted my bread in the broiler, pulling the veggies off the stove and throwing arugula and chopped smashed garlic into my pan. They cooked down quickly on medium heat as well, bright green and garlicky. When I stirred everything up into one bowl, the liquid from the sauteed vegetables broke down my croutons just enough, and it became a summer squash salad.

With some sauteed chicken, that made a delicious dinner. Then at work, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla with hummus, it made a wonderful lunch.

This morning, however, I was inspired. As good as those things were, I wanted a little more to the salad (which is just as good three days later, believe it or not!). I had one tomato left, and it wanted me to eat it.

I layered a salad plate with fresh arugula, and topped it with the leftovers of my salad. Then I chopped the fresh tomato and added that. Sprinkled with feta cheese and a liberal dusting of black pepper, it is a triumph. So perfectly summery, and less about the bread than the vegetables, it tastes like the farmer’s market and sundress-worthy Saturday afternoons.

For 3-4 servings:

2 yellow summer squash or zucchini

1/2 container of chopped mushrooms, or about a cup

1/2 a bag of arugula, or about three cups

garlic cloves, smashed and chopped

about 2 cups stale bread chunks

Sautee the squash and mushrooms until soft, about 5 minutes. Put them in a medium bowl and put the arugula into the pan with the garlic. If you have it, squeeze a little lemon juice in, too.

Toast your bread on broil until it’s pretty crunchy. Tear it up small.

Stir everything together. Put the other half of the bag of arugula in a larger bowl, pour your vegetables & sauteed greens over it.

Add:

2-3 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup crumbled feta

salt and pepper

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About Michal Conger

I’m a reporter and digital editor, a cooking and whole foods fanatic, a runner, a music lover, an Anthropologie devotee. I'm an avid reader of G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and anti-modernist novels. Lately you’ll find me freelancing about education policy and local economic issues to support my horseback riding habit. I am married to my best friend. And above all, I am committed to bearing the testimony of the Lord Jesus, giving an answer for the hope that is in me.
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