It is done – we have signed up for the 2023 CSA summer season! It will be the fourth year in a row and I am struggling to contain my excitement to start receiving weekly boxes of fresh, local produce. Followed quickly by spending time on my deck in the sunshine and brainstorming ways to use all of the goodies received. The only sad thing is that we do not start picking the boxes up until mid-June. So, until then, I am like a kid at Christmas time, sitting in wonder of what exciting produce will come each week.
One of those amazing treats that I do not have to wonder about coming are the beautiful, and dare I say, perfect tomatoes that come to us early and throughout the summer. There is something about these tomatoes not to be compared. In the dead of winter, I dream of those giant, naturally shaped, bright and bold, heirloom tomatoes, along with the cherry and grape varieties that come from the CSA each summer…and the anticipation begins.
Currently, I sit patiently waiting for pick ups to start and do not have to brainstorm on this dish because I know we will make Panzanella Salad this summer. This dish is made possible with those beautiful tomatoes (and cucumbers some weeks) currently growing that will be in transit to our counter in June & July. It does not rely on any type of greens to make a base, but celebrates all things fresh, adding a strong vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar, fresh mozzarella cheese, and olive oil toasted bread.
Panzanella can be enjoyed as a side dish, a main meal, or as a light lunch. We made this multiple times last season, each time with just slightly different variations based on what we had on hand, and each time, it excited all those celebrating the freshness of the season with us. Some variations included the type of tomatoes on hand – either grape/cherry/heirloom; or the type of bread – using French loaf, ciabatta, or any artisan loaf of bread hanging around.
Until June, we can look back fondly on pictures like this and know that freshness is coming soon to our table.
- Tomatoes (any type you have on hand) – chopped to about 1/2″ pieces
- Cucumber, seeded, and cut to half moons
- Red Onion, halved and thinly sliced
- Fresh Mozzarella, cut or torn into bit-size pieces
- Fresh Basil, chiffonade
- Bread – 2+ days old artisan bread (french loaf, ciabatta, brioche), cubed into 3/4″ pieces – approximately 4 cups
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil, separated
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbls Balsamic vinegar
- Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine bread with 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Toss to coat. Place on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, turning halfway through for an even coat. You are looking for nicely toasted, but not dried out. When done, remove from oven and let come to room temperature.
In a separate small bowl or jar, make the vinaigrette by whisking together the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper.
In a large bowl, mix together tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, mozzarella, basil, and bread. Top with vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve within 10 mins.
Tip – Plan ahead and you can save leftovers for the next day by keeping the bread and veggies separate. The flavors are better after marrying for a while, but the bread will get soggy if stored together.
*Experimental Spoon Original – based off of every vinaigrette ever made before.