June 16, 2014

Panzanella with Rosemary Olive-Oil Croutons

Summer means bathing suits, and that means getting creative when it comes to putting together salads for lunch and dinner. (Another perk: salads generally mean you don't have to turn on the oven or any other heat-emitting device in your kitchen.) 

But let's face it: salads get boring. Really boring. While I was wholeheartedly devoted to my lunchtime salads during the school year, it's hard for me to bring myself to eat them for lunch and dinner now that it's summer, even if I switch it up ingredients and dressings. While summer vacation is fantastic, it doesn't help my waistline that I'm usually home all day with little to think about other than my next meal. In general, my daily thought process goes a little something like this:

Daily Thought Process:
 9:00am: I'm just going to nurse this power smoothie after my coffee is finished, then have a salad for lunch! I can practically feel myself losing weight now. Maybe I should go get on the scale. 

10:00am: I think I'm skinnier. Do I look skinnier?

11:00am: Is it too early to eat lunch? I'll just go ahead and have my salad. I mean, it's better for your body to eat early, right? 

3:00pm: FOOD. Need FOOD. Already ate two meals. Must. find. snack.

5:00pm: Is it too early to eat dinner? I'll just go ahead and have my salad. I mean, it's better for your body to eat early, right? 

8:00pm: FOOD. Need FOOD.

Let's just say I've had finer moments. 

Thanks to La Brea's #BreakingBread tour, however, I think I've discovered a salad that will not only keep me full, but actually excited about the idea of eating a pile of raw vegetables. (I realize I'm the world's worst vegan. We're over it.) A few years ago, a mom from my new (old) school gave me a recipe for Panzanella, a traditional Italian salad with homemade croutons. On paper, the recipe didn't sound very exciting: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and a little vinaigrette. But the actual finished product? Beyond amazing. 

I lived with Elise at the time, and I don't think it even made it into serving dishes before we ate every last bit. (#notsorry.) I'm still boggled at how a few veggies + fresh bread + a vinaigrette can be so packed with flavor. For the recipe below, I used La Brea's Rosemary and Olive Oil loaf to add a little kick, and it was nothing short of amazing. (The challenge was not eating all of the croutons before they actually made it into the salad.)

A few notes on my recipe: traditionally this calls for basil, but every other recipe I served at my bread banquet had basil so I omitted it. You can have too much of a good thing. Also, Food Lion was running a special bell peppers so I used 3 instead of one. (They were just too pretty!) I also added a can of chik peas to the traditional recipe so that it's substantial enough to qualify as a main dish. 

Take this to a summer barbeque for a guaranteed crowd pleaser, or keep it all to yourself and use it as the main dish to any summer meal. Either way, good luck having leftovers. 

Panzanella with Rosemary Olive Oil Croutons
{makes 12 servings}


For the croutons:
1 loaf La Brea Rosemary Olive Oil bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt

For the vinaigrette:
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

For the salad:
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large cucumber, cut into 1/2 inch slices
3 red, orange, and/or yellow bell peppers (I used one of each), seeded and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 15 oz can chik peas, rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp capers, drained


For the croutons:
1. In the largest saute pan/skillet you've got, heat the olive oil. Add the bread cubes and tose to coat them evenly with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. 
2. Cook over medium heat, tossing frequently, until the bread is toasted and golden brown. (Since I was toasting the whole loaf this took about 15 minutes. Just keep an eye on them.)
3. Remove bread from the heat and set aside. 

For the vinaigrette:
1. In a small to medium bowl, add all of the vinaigrette ingredients together and whisk until well blended. 

For the salad:
1. Combine the tomatoes, cucumber slices, bell peppers, onion, chik peas, and capers. 
2. Toss with the vinaigrette until well coated. 
3. Just before serving, add the croutons and toss to coat. 

If you're in Charlotte, catch the #BreakingBread tour Uptown @ S. College St. & E. 3rd St. on Friday, June 20th at 8:30am. 

Click here to find La Brea at a store near you. 

Cheers to summer salads!


  1. Loling at your witty humor...and this looks SO good. Have to try that bread.

    1. I wish I was joking when I say I ate AT LEAST half of the bread as it was toasting. At least.

    How about when Hope moves back to Oakmore (which is happening for realsies, thanks to MOI....SYT)...we go over to her kitch and make this and eat it all together. And by we I mean you make it and I watch and ooo and aaa. Date? Date. CAN'T WAIT.

  3. um yum!! I am totally going to try this out
    xo Jessica


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