Recipe: Summer Salad – Tomato Pesto Mozzarella Panzanella
If you are looking for an authentic, traditional panzanella salad, you’d be better off with this one from Giada De Laurentis. But if you want something equally delicious, that can be made in about 4 minutes, I’m your girl! There is no toasting of the bread, no seeding or peeling of tomatoes, or other fussy steps.
Here’s how this recipe was born: I was doing another stint as Guest Chef at the Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market. The premise for this is that Hillsdale’s Green Solutions Group sponsors a chef who will come to market and demonstrate what to do with some of the more unusual or difficult veggies. Being at this point in the growing season, we really didn’t have any of the usual produce that people struggle with (kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts). So, as a twist, I decided to highlight tomatoes, given their bounty right about now, but to do something different with them.
Caprese salads have become mainstream, and are delicious, but I wanted to do something a little more special. So I came up with this concept, on the spot — ha, nothing like experimenting with dishes in front of a live audience, eh? It came out perfectly — I made about 8 batches of it, and people gobbled it up and asked for more (ahhhhh, how to make a chef’s heart happy!!).
Here is the recipe for you to try at at home:
3 lbs ripe tomatoes (can be a mix of varieties – heirloom, cherry, Roma, salad, etc), rough chopped
1 lb fresh mozzarella, in about 1/2″ cubes
4 oz basil pesto*
1/2 cup fresh basil, rough chopped
zest of 1 lemon
4 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste (watch how-to video here if not sure how to do this technique)
1 tsp sea salt
dash of dried chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
3 cups bread cubes (ciabatta or baguette recommended, can be day-old)
In a large. shallow bowl, toss all ingredients. If not serving immediately, hold off on adding the bread until ready to serve.
* I used the excellent pesto from Corona d’Oro, one of the market vendors