Two things (among many) I love in life are Ina Garten and a crouton. They are, of course, mutually exclusive.
If you haven’t seen Ina’s recent ‘Ina in LA’ show, please stop everything you are doing to check it out. It’s been the topic of many of my conversations lately. I live a very sweet life with few complaints but I’m still terribly jealous of all her travels, celebrity cocktail hours and lunches.
And when it comes to a crouton, while I try to limit them, they are a guilty pleasure. As a child, crouton’s were a specialty of mine. My dad makes a great salad (we are believers that a meal isn’t complete without a salad) and I was trained well to make a mean crouton. The trick is being liberal with salt and olive oil (duh).
So here’s the dynamic duo – Ina Garten’s Panzanella Salad. Make it while summer produce is fresh and burn those carbs off in the garden afterward.
Ina’s summer panzanella salad
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.