By Ali Dostal, University of Minnesota Fairview Dietetic Intern
As the weather starts to warm (finally!) and we begin to shed our heavy winter boots and coats, our bodies start to crave fresh, light flavors from the fruits and vegetables beginning to appear at farmer’s markets and roadside stands. If you’re like me, you also want to spend as little time as possible standing over the oven making dinner – there’s sunshine to get out and enjoy! Simple, no-cook recipes regain a major place in my meal plan as I shift toward spring and summertime.
Panzanella is one of my standby meals for a light lunch or dinner side dish. This cooling summertime salad is traditionally made with tomatoes, cucumbers, and hunks of crusty bread, and dressed with olive oil. I like to perk up the dressing by adding fresh basil and red wine vinegar for even more flavor. Feta or goat cheese can also be a flavorful, calcium-rich addition. Tomatoes are high in vitamin C and lycopene, an antioxidant that is associated with reduced risk for several cancers, as well as maintaining skin and bone health.
In addition to incorporating heaps of fresh vegetables, panzanella is also an excellent way to use up day-old bread – slightly stale loaves are perfect for soaking up juice from the tomatoes and the vinaigrette. As the variety expands at the farmer’s market or in your own garden, add in other favorite seasonal vegetables. Here’s to the turning of the seasons and becoming reacquainted with fresh produce!
For the vinaigrette:
- 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the salad:
- 4 cups day-old bread, cubed
- 4 cups tomatoes, cut into large chunks
- 1 cucumber, cut into chunks the same size as the tomatoes
- ½ red onion, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, minced
- ¼ cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled
In a small bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
In a serving bowl, stir together the bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, vinaigrette dressing, basil, and salt and pepper until the salad is combined well. Allow this mixture to marinate for at least 30 minutes – the longer it sits, the juicier the tomatoes will be and the bread will soak up the juices and vinaigrette. When ready to serve, top with feta or goat cheese crumbles and additional basil leaves for garnish. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
Per serving: 191 calories; 11 g fat (2 g saturated fat); 6 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 5 g protein; 2.5 g fiber; 216 mg sodium; 406 mg potassium.