The first step in making this grilled panzanella salad is, of course, to grill the bread. I like a hearty Italian loaf for this salad, but you could use baguette or levain bread too. You could even use your own No Knead Bread if you happen to have some leftover (I know… what am I thinking!). Be sure to brush the bread liberally with olive oil before grilling it on either your outdoor grill or your indoor grill pan. You want the bread to get nice and toasty, but still have some moisture inside. It’s also a great opportunity for you to practice your grill marks (bread is much cheaper than steak!).
Tearing the bread is much easier if the bread is still warm, so take advantage of that but don’t burn your fingers. You can do this step ahead of time and have it ready to toss with the vegetables before serving.
The vegetables can really be whatever you’d like them to be, but tomatoes are a must. Use the ripest, juiciest tomatoes you can find. Their moisture will get absorbed by the bread. I prefer English cucumber, but you can use a regular cucumber if that’s what you have – just scoop the seeds out before slicing it into chunks. If you don’t like the bright prominent flavor of red onions, try soaking the sliced onions in some water for about 20 minutes before draining, drying and then adding to the salad. That will tame their flavor a little.
Once all the ingredients, including the dressing are tossed together, just give the salad a few minutes to let the ingredients get to know each other. This will allow the crispy grilled bread to absorb some of the flavors of the dressing and the vegetables and soften just a little. You still want there to be some crunch to the salad, but no need for anyone to have a hard time eating this!
Grilled Panzanella Salad can be a side dish at an outdoor (or indoor) summer gathering OR it can be the main meal. It’s incredibly satisfying and oh-so-tasty. It’s a nice change from your regular salad greens, that’s for sure!