Bread salad, also known as Panzanella, made with toasted day-old sourdough bread, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, basil and an Italian-style salad dressing that is exceptionally tasty and very addictive.
This salad is close relative of our family favorite Italian tomato and cucumber salad. It has the similar fantastic taste and similar summery freshness, only it goes above and beyond that.
What makes this bread salad truly special is the pieces of toasted sourdough bread, my new favorite – beer bread, or the quick but so good no-knead bread, and the Italian-style salad dressing that is so good that you could just drink it. Both are family favorites and when combined together, they make one ridiculously good bread salad. So good in fact that you just can’t have enough of it.
The salad is also fairly light and you could end up eating quite a bit before you know it. So, be forewarned and think about doubling the recipe.
Some tips for making bread salad taste best
- Make the vegetables and the dressing a few hours ahead, mix and let sit at room temperature to allow flavor to develop.
- Traditionally bread in panzanella is not toasted but this is a huge oversight. Toasted sourdough bread adds so much flavor and the crunchy texture that will make any salad leaps and bounds better.
- Toast the bread pieces close to serving the salad. Do not mix in until the very last minute, or just simply place on top. If you mix the bread in too early they will soak up the dressing and become wet and soggy. Use good quality sourdough bread. Italian or French. Or whatever sourdough bread you like. I like baguettes in this salad too. Great bread makes great panzanella.
- If desired, add fresh feta to the salad. It adds zest and saltiness. You don’t need much, a tablespoon per serving will do.
- To make the salad more lively and zesty, add juice and zest from one lime to the dressing. A quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes will add a hint of spiciness if you like it.
- 3 ripe large tomatoes
- 3 baby cucumbers (sliced)
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1/4 large red onion (thinly sliced)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dry basil)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dry oregano)
For the toasted bread
- 2 slices sourdough bread (Italian style, French or whatever you like; large and about 1" thick)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil (or melted butter)
For the bread salad dressing
- 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- 3/4 tsp sugar
- 1 garlic clove (pressed)
- To prepare the vegetables for the salad, core the tomatoes, cut in 6-8 wedges, then cut each wedge in half. Place the tomatoes into a large bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of sugar and toss. Add the sliced cucumbers, red onion and chopped basil and oregano and toss well.
- To prepare the dressing, place the dressing ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together vigorously until well blended.
- Pour the dressing over the vegetables and gently toss. Cover and set aside. You can prepare the salad several hours in advance and let it stand at room temperature to allow the flavors to blend.
- To prepare the bread, lightly brush sourdough bread slices with olive oil or butter on both sides. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet 4-6 inches below the heating element and broil on high until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes per side. Keep the oven door slightly ajar as you want the heating element to be on the entire time. Remove from the oven, let cool then break into bite size pieces and set aside.
- Add the bread to the salad just before serving, give it a quick toss and serve. To keep the bread crispy longer, serve it sprinkled on top without tossing.