This week OB had to hit the road for work and that means I go into vegetable overload. I eat all foods he considers “girlie” or “weird”. It’s nice to be able to have a meal that does not require applying heat to a piece of meat. I am happy to consume a large bowl of well marinated vegetables and call it a day. This is why I like me some panzanella.
I could eat my weight in panzanella and I confess I kind of did. There is no summer salad that I love more than a panzanella. It’s ideal for the summer! Made up of large cuts of crisp, fresh vegetables and tangy vinaigrette it’s the perfect salad to accompany some grilled meat. I have made several different variations of panzanella. One with fruit and toasted cinnamon bread cubes another with veggies and pan fried crisp gnocchi. The combinations of panzanella are plentiful. But, it’s not panzanella if it doesn’t have some kind of bread or giant croutons.
If you are not familiar panzanella, it is a Tuscan salad traditionally made of bread and tomatoes. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. I like to make mine loaded with chopped veggies and toasted bread tossed in a flavorful vinaigrette. But this time I thought I would follow a more Mediterranean root and make it with toasted pita and marinated feta cheese with kalamata olives. If you love feta cheese, you will love marinated feta cheese. It gives the cheese an extra kick and the marinade doubles as a dressing for the salad. Allowing notes of feta to get all up in the salad’s business.
I also chose to use baby cucumbers in this salad. For not reason other than, I saw them and thought they were too cute to pass up. I have a thing for miniature versions of vegetables, but you can also use an English cucumber. If using English cucumber make sure to seed it and cut it in half slices.
Let me tell you how much and why I love this salad. The crisp vegetables, toasted pita, tangy feta, briny olives and bright vinaigrette make you want to take one bite after another and after another. Leaving you weeping with disappointment when it is all gone.
- 8 ounces feta cheese, cubed
- 2 lemons juiced
- ¼ cup tablespoons olive oil
- 2 kumquats thinly slices or zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
- 1 or two dried chilies (or you can use chili flakes, to taste)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 6 kalamata olives
- 2 pita breads, halved and cut in strips
- 4 baby cucumbers, sliced at a bias
- 6 small vine ripe tomatoes, quartered
- 1 yellow pepper, small diced
- 1 red pepper, small diced
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- small handful of flat parsley leaves, torn
- salt to taste
- crushed red pepper (optional)
- In a small container combine all dressing ingredients, gently tossing feta cheese. Set aside to allow flavors to meld.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Gently toss pita bread with olive oil and salt. Spread on sheet pan and toast in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes our until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
- Combine vegetables in a large bowl. Strain feta cheese, reserving dressing. Add feta, olives and pita strips to vegetables, dress with desired amount of dressing. Season with salt and toss until well combined. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper and serve.