I’ve decided it’s finally time to share this insanely delicious salad. I’ve been making this Greek Panzanella Salad for a few years now and it’s certainly become a summer must have. If I’m asked to bring a salad for any gathering, I like to go beyond the typical green salad and make this panzanella salad because I know it will without fail, be a crowd favorite. This salad is for sure what you’ll want to make for any and all of your summer BBQ’s. It goes perfectly with almost anything and the flavors of the vinaigrette blend so well with the crunch of the bell peppers and the crisp homemade croutons just always leaves everyone wanting more.
The recipe comes from non other than the ever so lovely Ina Garten. My hands down absolute favorite cook, EVER. I have all her food networks shows on my DVR and I never tire of watching them. Ina has a gift for blending simple ingredients that create a “wow” factor. This Greek Panzanella Salad is right in that category. Using basic greek inspired ingredients such as english cucumbers, kalamata olives, grape tomatoes and feta, you can’t possibly go wrong. I’ve only tweaked a few ingredients from her original recipe.
There are a few key components to ensure the success of this salad. The homemade croutons are made using a fresh, rustic baguette which makes all the difference in the world. It needs to be slightly soft on the inside with a good crust on the outside. Don’t use french bread, as it is too soft and it won’t firm up into the nice crunchy crouton you need. Using fresh, good quality feta is a must. Do not use crumbled feta. The feta needs to be purchased in a block form, then diced for maximum flavor. Lastly, using a good quality red wine vinegar is a must. It will make all the difference in the flavor of your vinaigrette. So let’s get started.
Have all of your salad ingredients set out and ready to go. We’re using 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, 1 pint grape tomatoes, 1/2 cup kalamata olives, 1 hothouse/english cucumber and a good quality feta cheese block.
You’ll need to dice the peppers, diagonally cut the grape tomatoes, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the center and slice into half moons and cut and dice the feta cheese. Set salad ingredients aside while you prepare the homemade croutons.
Making homemade croutons will forever change your mind about buying store bought croutons. Granted you have to take the extra step to cut up the bread and cook it over a saute pan but the end result is amazing and so full of flavor. Using a serrated bread knife, cut the baguette in half lengthwise and then dice up the bread into 1 inch dices. Heat 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a large (12 inch) saucepan until hot. Add the diced bread and sprinkle with a large pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring frequently for 5-10 minutes until nicely browned. Set aside and try not to snack to much on them. Because trust me, you’ll want to eat them and you may not be able to stop.
Place the cucumber, bell peppers, tomatoes and kalamata olives in a large bowl and toss together. To make the vinaigrette you’ll need to mix together in a small bowl ¼ cup good quality red wine vinegar, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp freshly ground pepper. Whisk together and then slowly add 1/4- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil to make an emulsion.
Add the feta cheese to the bowl then add the vinaigrette and toss lightly. Set aside for 15-20 minutes for the flavors to develop, then add the bread and stir to combine well. The bread bulks up the salad quite a bit, so make sure you stir together really well to evenly disperse it. Season the salad with more salt and pepper to taste, only if needed. Serve at room temperature and enjoy!!