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Serves 4-6
Traditionally, panzanella (Italian bread salad) was a home for leftover dried bread, which was soaked in water or dressings to bring it back to life. I think it is much nicer made with toasted bread - choose a good structured sourdough loaf, or a well-made baguette, not fluffy white stuff. The salad is at its best about 30 minutes after tossing the croutons with the dressing because the hard edges of the croutons soften a little and absorb some of the yummy juices, but they haven't completely softened. This timing makes it a perfect dish for a barbecue - do the bread first, then grill the rest of the meal. Serve panzanella as a starter or as an accompanying salad.

You'll find this recipe and many more like it in my book, SIZZLE: SENSATIONAL BARBECUE FOOD.

1/2 small ciabatta loaf (slipper-shaped sourdough loaf) or 1/2 baguette (French bread)
Olive oil or olive oil spray
2 small red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 telegraph cucumber (long, tender-skinned cucumber)
3 large tomatoes, cubed and drained briefly
1/2 cup black olives
1/2 cup basil leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Tbsp capers, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

[US Measurements | Metric ]
1 Cut bread into 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) cubes to generously fill 2 cups. Put bread cubes in a shallow dish and drizzle or spray lightly with oil. Cook for a few minutes on each side until golden on a barbecue hot plate (cast-iron griddle). Transfer croutons to a side plate.

2 Soak sliced onions in cold water for 15 minutes. Peel cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, then cut into half circles. Transfer cucumber to a large bowl. Add drained onions, cubed tomatoes, olives and croutons. Tear the larger basil leaves into small pieces and scatter them over the top.

3 In a small bowl, mix together garlic and capers with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add oil and vinegar. Pour over salad. Toss well, then cover and refrigerate for 30

Photo Credit: Aaron McLean

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