It’s summer! You know what that means, getting friendly with the great outdoors and soaking up a little sunshine. Whether it’s biking, swimming, hiking, or Missouri-style-floating, I bet you’ll want something refreshing and light after being active in the heat. And what about all the family picnics and summer bbqs? What are you going to bring that will satisfy everyone?

My answer: Greek panzanella, a “bread salad” loaded with the best ingredients from summer’s harvest. You’ll find that nothing tastes better than a sun-ripened tomato or the crunch of a bell pepper because right now they are at their peak of freshness and taste. Take advantage of your farmer’s market and make this summer salad for a light dinner or a crowd-pleasing side at your next outdoor gathering.

Greek Panzanella

barely adapted from Ina Garten. Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • Good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and large diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, large diced
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (or 6 roma tomatoes, large diced)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted and halved

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil

Directions:

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed.
  2. Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.
  3. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.
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