Sunday, January 11, 2015

Panzanella - bowlful of fresh, crispy salad: you don't need a resolution in the new year to enjoy this deliciousness

Have I told you grocery shopping gives me pleasure and lifts my spirits? :-), I just don't have the same patience and tolerance for shoes or clothes. I can walk around the aisles filled with fresh produce with images of many delicious dishes swimming in my head and plan an entire week worth of recipes during my weekly grocery pick up. Strange? Aren't we all at some level?

I am a list person and like to call myself well organized. I graduated from hand written notes to oneNote on my laptop synced with the one on my phone (technology advances such as these are really handy) and so whenever I see something need to be replenished or I want an ingredient, it goes on my note and the next time I am in the store, I just have to go by the list. Well, the list was also for another purpose - to avoid reduce impulse buying and eliminate wastage. It works great but I won't call myself 100% successful at staying away from those unplanned purchases :-), it happens once in a while.
During the holiday season, on one of my shopping trips, I found this really big bag of stuffing (croutons+a packet of seasoning included). I used to keep a small container of bread crumbs in my pantry but now I mostly use left over bread at home since I bake often. Croutons is another story, I have never bought except for eating them in salads. It was the season of joy and everyone was purchasing big and seeing those bags of stuffing in every shopping cart around me, made me splurge and bring home one myself. I had big plans of making a casserole, spreading the croutons on top and serving it to dear family. The bag stayed firmly on the counter top, staring directly at me day after day when I came home in the evening and I didn't get around to it even after a couple of weeks of purchase. I changed my mind story and told whoever was listening that I would crumble them in the blender and use it in cutlets:-). I could have served cutlets to an army with that much of crumbled bread. Another week passed and that didn't happen either. Years of familiarity has my family prepared to such things and they very fondly overlook these strange behaviors of mine. BH did make an unkind comment that may be a payasa/porridge would be the next idea. Before we went on our vacation 2 weeks back, I surreptitiously pushed the bag into the pantry with an excuse of cleaning the kitchen, closed the door and left home happily. I confess, I was out of all my wild ideas of using that bag of croutons and was planning to chuck it when I returned home.
Like they say, "Every grain bears its eater's name", these croutons had our names carved on them and the stars just aligned to show me the light :-). Coming back, we had a lay over and as I was walking around the airport to stretch my stiff limbs, I happened to walk into a book/magazine store. There it was on the stands, 'Bread baker's basics' and I was flipping the pages as I always do when I see colorful food pictures, I saw this gorgeous looking salad in a bowl. This was not one of those salads with a few sparsely thrown croutons, instead this one called for equal proportions of croutons and vegetables. Perfect way to use up my bag sitting in the dark pantry. One look and I almost yelled for BH, who was innocently looking at some books on the other side of the store. I showed him the picture and promised I would make that salad as soon as we reached home. I didn't make good of the promise - atleast not the 'make as soon as' part since our flights got delayed and we ended up eating dinner on the way. But I did make it the very next day and the next day and a couple days after. It was sooo... delicious.
I don't have a resolution for the new year but this light yet flavorful salad sounds like a great dinner option if you are looking to eat healthy. Easy to put together with bursts of basil freshness, full of fresh vegetables and the tangy vinegar make this one no less enticing than our Bhel puri, I see those eyes twinkle and ears perk up for all of you snack lovers. Crunchy toasted croutons steal the show. What is more, it can be eaten immediately or after a few hours when the bread pieces are soft and soggy if you like it that way, I do. It looks beautiful too with a few burned pieces of croutons in the colorful medley of vegetables. The dressing is simple and tasty. It is a great party dish if you sign up for salad ever. Original recipe had capers and used red wine vinegar, I made changes to suit my palate.

Updated 1/18: Virtual world is a much bigger place than I ever imagined. Recently I was introduced to a new startup at and am excited to share a recipe with them that would inspire people to eat healthy. I am not a nutrition expert but eating healthy has always been on the menu in my kitchen. I chose the latest one I had on the blog, don't you agree that this Panzanella makes a great, healthy salad? I have made this with gluten free croutons (made with sorgham flour and flax seeds among others), and it tastes delicious. So I am pleased to share my panzanella recipe via Aloha, make this your next party dish when you meet with friends. Eat light, eat healthy, eat delicious.

What do you need to make Panzanella?
3 cups croutons/2 thick slices of bread of choice
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1/2 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil - divided use
1 clove of garlic - crushed
1 Tbsp chopped spring onions
5-6 fresh basil leaves - chopped fine
1 carrot - peeled & grated
8-10 grape tomatoes - sliced into half or quarters
1 cup thinly sliced or cubed tender cucumber
How do you make Panzanella? 
  • Heat a grill pan (or ordinary griddle) on medium heat.
  • Toss croutons in 1 Tbsp olive oil until they are coated and spread them in a single layer on the heated pan. 
  • Grill them for a 1 minute on each until until light brown patches start to form. 
  • Switch off and let it stand.
  • If you are using slices of bread, bush olive oil on both sides and grill them until they are firm and light brown. 
  • Once cool, cut them into bite sized cubes.  
  • Take vinegar, salt & pepper in a bowl, add chopped spring onions and let it sit for 5 minutes. 
  • Remove the soaked spring onions into a large bowl. 
  • To the remaining vinegar, add olive oil, crushed garlic and mix well.
  • Add all the vegetables into the bowl along with croutons and give a mix. 
  • Pour the vinaigrette mixture over and toss it well. 
  • Serve immediately. 
  • Original recipe used slices of sourdough bread. You can achieve the same effect by adjusting your vinegar or add lemon juice. 
  • Bake the bread to crispness in the oven if you do not want to do it on stove top. 
  • If you do not have vinegar in the pantry, don't sweat. Just use lemon/lime juice. 
  • Any fleshy tomatoes will work, if you want remove the seeds before using. 
  • Add a handful of thinly sliced radish for a sharp taste if you like. 
  • I have used chopped lettuce and it tastes great too.
  • Basil gives that spark of freshness in this salad, don't miss it. If not available, use fresh cilantro and mint in combination. 
  • If you want to add proteins, throw in a handful of cooked garbanzo beans. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

a real healthy and tasty salad recipe. stomach full also.

NamsVeni Pothas said...

very nice and healthy recipe