There's nothing like the first bite of a sweet-tart, chewy-crunchy, tomato-rich panzanella in the middle of the summer—except of course that moment when you realize that bread salads can be made sans tomato, all months of the year. After all, the beauty of panzanella is that you get to eat tons of bread and still call it a salad, right?
The Yellow Bell Pepper Panzanella in Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner's Family Table is a prime example of the form. Made mostly of caramelized onions and bell peppers, this panzanella has all of the vibrancy of the original without running the risk of eating a mealy tomato. Capers and a generous amount of torn basil are key to perking up the rich sweetness of the vegetables.
Why I picked this recipe: Panzanella is one of my summertime staples, so I was excited to try my hand at a version that didn't depend on perfect late-August tomatoes.
What worked: The sweetness of the slow-cooked peppers and onions was perfectly matched with the salty capers and tangy vinegar blend.
What didn't: I thought the ratio of vegetables and herbs to bread was a bit off. Next time, I'll use at least 3 cups of bread cubes.
Suggested tweaks: Although the recipe specifies yellow bell peppers here, you could use any mix of sweet peppers here (and maybe a couple of small spicy ones, too). A mix of red bells and poblanos would be particularly good.
Excerpted from Famly Table: Favorite Staff Meals from Our Restaurants to Your Home, copyright 2013 by USHG, LLC, and Karen Stabiner. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Yield:serves 4 to 6
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:1 hour
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups cut or torn 1-inch chunks day-old bread
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups torn fresh basil leaves
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and light golden, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the bell peppers and garlic and cook until very soft, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Toss the bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of the oil and spread on a baking sheet. Toast until light golden, 7 to 10 minutes; check them after 5 minutes to make sure they don’t get too dark. Allow to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the pepper mixture and capers and fold in the bread. Add the two vinegars and season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside for about 15 minutes to blend the flavors.
Right before serving, gently mix in the basil leaves and drizzle the salad with the remaining 1/4 cup oil.