Right after I graduated college, as I was preparing for my RD exam and trying to get a “real job,” I worked as a hostess at a new Northern Italian-style restaurant near my home. It was there that I tried for the first time Panzanella Salad, or bread salad. Who knew soggy bread could taste so good!?
After a trip to the local farmers’ market last week, I had an abundance of cucumbers and a massive bunch of basil to use up. (The picture above shows what I have left after making this salad and pesto!) I figured with some ripe tomatoes and crusty bread, I could make the perfect panzanella salad. I didn’t follow a recipe, just my taste buds:
1 loaf of bread cut into bite sized pieces. I used a 6-pack of freshly baked hearty whole wheat dinner rolls from Trader Joes that had all sorts of grainy specks and chewy seeds in them.
2+ pounds of tomatoes, diced. I sliced cherry tomatoes in half. If you’re using larger tomatoes, like beefsteak or Roma, remove some of the juice and seeds when you dice them.
1 block of extra firm tofu, squeezed and pressed of moisture and diced
1 large bunch of basil leaves, chopped
1 large cucumber, seeded and diced
Olive oil (about 1/3 cup)
Red wine vinegar (about 1/3 cup)
Sea salt, garlic powder, and ground pepper to taste
It is best to use a day or two old loaf of crusty bread. If the bread is too soft and fresh, it’ll turn soggy from all of the added liquid. My bread was pretty fresh, so I diced and toasted it in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes until it became a bit browned and crunchy.
Dice tofu, place in a large bowl, and season with a generous amount of salt and garlic powder. Add diced tomatoes, cucumber, basil, cooled bread, vinegar and olive oil. Toss to coat. Serve immediately.
While most panzanella salads likely don’t have tofu, this addition made the dish a complete meal and a seriously satisfying salad. The bread held its form, despite soaking up the oil and vinegar, and the fresh basil added a slightly minty flavor. I devoured this meal for two lunches and two dinners, and would have been perfectly happy to eat it all week.
I wasn’t sure how Funk would like it, considering his distaste for cold salads. I told him to give this one a shot, and that he wouldn’t go microwaving a garden salad, would he? To my surprise, he did really enjoy it, but commented,
“There’s a lot of bread in this salad.”
Me: “It’s a BREAD salad!”
“Yeah, but there’s just a lot of bread.”
And so it went back and forth for a bit, but he ate it, and I loved it. Like bread in your salad? Try this panzanella salad with tofu for a satisfying summer meal.