Panzanella Salad with Lemon-Basil Dressing
Hold up! Summer is not over yet. Is it? Well even if it is this Panzanella Salad with grilled veggies and a beautiful grilled lemon-basil dressing is a hit year round. It’s a hearty salad, more of a side dish than just a salad, and it won’t wilt in the summer heat so it’s perfect for a picnic or barbeque if you are lucky enough to squeeze one last one in this Labor Day weekend. Panzanella is a Tuscan inspired ‘bread’ salad with fresh vegetables where the day-old bread soaks up the yummy dressing. It also happens to be a brilliant way to use up the rest of a day-old baguette. Leave it to the Italians….
My version of a Panzanella salad did in fact start with a half of a day-old baguette left over at home and a trip to Whole Foods where I stumbled across these adorable mini eggplants. I just couldn’t resist their beautiful color and decided they were probably easy and quick to grill. They were.
I live in Northern California and for us, late August means Heirloom tomatoes are on sale! So I picked up a pint of the colorful variety and decided that would add a nice fresh element to my grilled veggies. I also spotted some multi-colored baby potatoes. I am obviously going with a colorful theme here but also wanted smaller veggies that would grill quickly and all at about the same time. To round things out I had a red bell pepper at home.
Now it was time to get cooking. I like to par-boil potatoes that I’m going to grill later so that they don’t take as long on the grill and you can ensure they are tender in the middle. I used about 1/2 the bag or 2 1/2 cups of the potatoes. You just want about an equal amount of potatoes to tomatoes. Start a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender but not falling apart. Mine took 13 minutes. Drain and cool slightly and then cut in half. Then add your other veggies you are going to grill (eggplant, bell pepper) to the same bowl. For the eggplant I just cut the ends off and cut them width-wise into 3 equal pieces. They shrink when they cook. The bell pepper I cut into 1 1/2 inch squares. A little bigger than bite sized but I just like they way they look in larger pieces. Any size you like is fine. Toss all these with some olive oil, dried thyme, dried oregano and salt and pepper. Put the cut lemons and the bread on a separate sheet pan and use a pastry brush to add a little oil to both sides of the bread and cut (flesh exposed) part of the lemon. Season with salt and pepper also.
Fire up the grill! Or grill pan. It’s helpful if you have a grill pan that goes on top of the grill or stove so you can get those nice grill marks without losing any veggies to the fire. Cook until tender and you have nice brown grill marks on each piece; turning as needed. I started with the veggies because they all took around the same amount of time. Then I removed them back to the bowl that had the oil and herbs in it and did the bread and lemons next. It was easier to monitor the bread like this. The lemons you put flesh side down on the grill and just want to cook them until they have grill marks and are slightly softened. Remove the bread and lemons to a separate plate when done. Cut the bread into bite sized chunks and toss in with the other grilled veggies. Then cut the fresh tomatoes in half and toss those in with the veggies, too. It’s time to move on the dressing and this is where we’ll use one of those grilled lemons.
For the Basil-Lemon dressing simple whisk the garlic, shallot, Dijon, honey, and juice of 1 of the grilled lemons (both halves) in a medium dish. Add in the remaining olive oil (about 1/2 cup) and whisk vigorously. Add salt and pepper and whisk and taste. Adjust as needed but you do want a pretty lemony flavor. The bread and potatoes will soak up these flavors. Now gently whisk in the chopped basil and pour over the salad. Serve with remaining grill lemon as a garnish and a few fresh whole basil sprigs. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate if making ahead.
- 2 ½ cups mini heirloom tomatoes
- 2 ½ cups whole baby potatoes
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper
- 3 baby eggplants
- 6 slices rustic day-old bread cut into ½ inch slices
- ¾ cup extra virgin Olive oil, divided
- 2 large Lemons cut in half across the center and about ¼ inch off the end tips so the lemon halves can sit flat on sheet tray and grill
- ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon shallot, diced
- ½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Handful fresh Basil, chopped plus fresh sprigs for garnish
- Salt & Pepper
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil and cook whole baby potatoes until just tender but still firm. Total time will depend on the size of the potato. Mine took about 13 minutes. Remember you are going to grill them too so don’t overcook during this step. Drain and set aside to cool and then cut in half.
- Cut the bell pepper into large 1 inch wide strips and remove stem and core. Cut baby eggplants into thirds width wise so that you have even ½ inch thick pieces.
- Place the cut potatoes, bell pepper and eggplant in a large bowl and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, dried thyme and dried oregano. Toss to combine. On a separate parchment lined baking sheet arrange the sliced bread and lemons. Using a pastry brush baste each side of the bread and the top flesh part of the lemon with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high. Make sure you have a grill grate for veggies so your mini potatoes don’t fall through. I used a grill pan on top of my stove. Grill veggies first (reserve the bowl they came out of) and then bread and lemons. You want tender and golden brown with grill marks. Remove veggies and place back in the bowl you tossed them in oil with. Place the lemons and bread on the cutting board. Cut the bread into bite sized pieces and then place in the bowl with the veggies.
- Cut the tomatoes in half and then add them to the same bowl with the veggies and bread.
- In a separate medium bowl whisk together Dijon mustard, garlic, shallot, honey and the juice of 1 of the 2 grilled lemons (careful not to get the seeds in there), and the remaining 1/3 cup to ½ cup of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Chop and add the basil and then gently whisk to combine and pour over the salad mixture. Toss to combine and serve with reserved grilled lemon for garnish and extra basil.t cocoa milk drink