Written by Chris -
For a summery appetizer, nothing’s easier than fresh, seasonal produce and firing up the grill. Traditional panzanella is an Italian summer salad incorporating semi-stale bread which has been moistened by presoaking in water or vinaigrette. Garden-fresh produce like tomatoes, cucumbers and basil are common ingredients and it’s typically dressed with a simple vinaigrette. And it’s great for Father’s Day!
In this recipe, grilled bell peppers and zucchini, fresh cucumber, ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and sliced shallot are tossed with a pesto-spiked vinaigrette, and then placed on top of rustic grilled bread slices (like a bruschetta). I prefer less bread, so serving the salad over bread is a simple solution. If you want to go the more traditional route, tear or cut the grilled bread into pieces and add to the salad. Be sure to toss it well so that the bread can soften and soak up the tasty vinaigrette.
Served atop bread, I find it to be the perfect summer appetizer, especially with a medium-bodied white wine, like a Pinot Gris. It’s also wonderful with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. To make this a light meal (something I do all the time), pile the vegetable mixture into a bowl and serve with grilled bread.
A few tips before you get started:
- Sweet bell peppers, yellow and red in particular, are especially tasty when grilled. They take on a complex, smoky flavor. Simply cut them in quarters, brush with a little oil, and then throw them on the grill. Once their skin wrinkles and blisters, they’re done.
- Grilling zucchini couldn’t be easier – it’s the easiest way to cook zucchini. Cut in half lengthwise or into thick strips, coat with a little oil and grill.
- I’m a huge fan of grilling bread. But watch it carefully – all it needs is about 30 seconds on each side. Any Italian-style rustic bread will be great. If you are using a larger/wider loaf, cut the slices in half for serving.
- Cut the veggies into bite-size pieces so that they don’t fall off the bread slices as you take a bite (I’m speaking from experience here).
Ingredients for 20 individual appetizers or 4-6 light servings:
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 6 tablespoons BUITONI Refrigerated All Natural Pesto with Basil
- 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 loaf (1 pound) rustic Italian, whole-wheat or French bread (10 to 12 inches long), sliced into 1-inch pieces, cut in half
- 2 large bell peppers, any color, quartered
- 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
- 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, sliced thin
- 1 shallot, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil, plus more for garnish
WHISK together ¼ cup oil, pesto, vinegar and garlic in small bowl; season with salt and pepper.
GENTLY toss tomatoes with ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Transfer to colander and set over bowl or in sink; set aside to drain for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally (this will allow water to drain out).
HEAT grill to medium-high. Brush bread pieces on both sides with some of the remaining oil (you will need about 2 to 3 tablespoons); sprinkle with a little sea salt. Grill for about 30 seconds on each side or until nicely browned. Set aside.
BRUSH peppers and zucchini with a little of the remaining oil (about 1 tablespoon will be needed); grill on each side for about 4 minutes. Cool; cut into bite-size pieces.
ADD tomatoes, cucumber, shallot and basil to large bowl. Add grilled vegetables and vinaigrette; toss to coat.
SPOON a few tablespoons vegetable mixture over each bread slice and serve bruschetta-style. Or, for a light entrée, serve two bread slices with about 1 cup of the vegetable mixture. Garnish with additional shredded basil, if desired.
Here’s to a joyful, relaxing summer! Bon appétit!
Related Buitoni recipes:
Chicken & Four Cheese Ravioli with Peas and Basil
Vegetable Tortellini Soup with Pesto