Tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are a match made in flavor paradise. With a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, some salt & fresh cracked black pepper, it's hard to beat the deliciousness! But if ever there were a contender that could squeeze some more love into the equation, it would have to be....bread! That's right, there is such a thing as a bread salad and it's name is Panzanella!
Panzanella is a Tuscan salad that features ultra ripe tomatoes and slightly stale bread (day old works best!). There are so many delicious versions of Panzanella, but I decided to go with a colorful mix of tomatoes, ultra thin slices of red onion, fresh mozzarella & basil and a beautiful grilled baguette. It all gets dressed with a quick balsamic vinaigrette.
I used half of a baguette for this recipe (NOT because we kept munching on grilled bread before it could make it into the salad...definitely not). There wouldn't be anything wrong with using the whole baguette here!
Get your grill heating to a medium-high heat (around 350-400°F). Cut the baguette in half, longways, and brush all sides with olive oil. Grill for about 1-2 minutes per side, but keep a close eye on it! If the bread is right over a flame, it could burn pretty fast.
After the bread gets nice and toasty on the grill, let it cool down and cut into roughly 1" cubes. If your baguette wasn't that stale to start with, or it still seems on the softer/chewier side after you cut it, you can pop the pieces into the oven at 250°F for 15-20 minutes.
Next up is the dressing! In a large mixing bowl, add balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt & pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until you get a nice, smooth vinaigrette.
You can chop up the tomatoes, onions, basil & fresh mozzarella any way you like. I like an ultra thin slice on the onions (mandoline works great here!) and sliced tomatoes. Fresh mozzarella comes in a few different shapes and sizes, but little bite-sized pieces are perfect! And I like to chiffonade the basil into skinny little strips.
As you chop up each ingredient (minus the bread), you can add it right into the bowl, over the dressing. Give it a gentle toss, making sure that balsamic dressing gets its hands on everything!
Instead of tossing the bread with the rest of the salad, I like to add the grilled pieces right over the top before serving, so that they still keep some of their crunch. They'll soak up a little juicy flavor without becoming a soggy mess!
Thanks for Chewsing!