Panzanella is a classic summer salad that requires little effort and zero cooking. It’s easy, delicious and can be served as a complete meal, especially on an exceptionally heat-ridden day as we have here, today.
This particular version has a twist, though. Since we’re about a week or two shy of full blown tomato season, I figured I’d use half tomatoes and half watermelon and then balance out that extra sweetness with some acidity (balsamic) and some heat (red pepper). As the salad sits, the extra crusty bread soaks up the sweet juices of the watermelon, the freshness of the cucumbers and the sweet yet savory ripe tomatoes which plays nicely off of the balsamic vinaigrette.
It’s very refreshing and light yet satisfying and easy. It’s perfect for today.
Savory Watermelon Panzanella
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4 as a meal, 6-8 as a starter course or side dish
for the balsamic vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons finely minced sweet red onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
for the salad
- 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, deseeded (about 2 tomatoes)
- 1 1/2 cups bite sized seedless watermelon pieces
- 2 cucumbers, deseeded and chopped into bite sized pieces (about three cups)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup packed chopped basil
- 2 cups cubed hard crusted rustic Italian bread
- shaved parmesan
- extra virgin olive oil
Note: This salad is best with high quality balsamic vinegar which is both thicker and sweeter than average. However, if you heat lesser quality balsamic vinegar until it thickens slightly, you may use that as a substitute for the more expensive version. Also, if your bread is extra fresh, I recommend toasting before adding to the bowl so it doesn’t become mushy.
- Make vinaigrette: In a large salad bowl, whisk together the vinegar, onion, garlic, red pepper, and honey. Set aside for about ten minutes while the onions and garlic soften in the vinegar, then whisk in the olive oil.
- Lightly season the tomatoes, watermelon and cucumber pieces with a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper before dropping them into the bowl with the dressing. Add the bread pieces and basil to the salad bowl and toss everything to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and finish with shaved parmesan and an additional drizzle of olive oil (optional).