Panzanella Caprese Salad / by Anthony Michael Contrino

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I'm not the hugest fan of summer.  I'm not sure why everyone loves the extreme heat, humidity and bugs, but if there's one thing I can get down with, it's a perfectly ripe tomato.  Tomatoes just taste better when they're in season.  Panzanella and caprese are two of my favorite tomato dishes so I like to put them together for the ultimate summer side.  Make the salad about 15 minutes before serving to allow the dressing to slightly soften the toasted bread.

Panzanella Caprese Salad // Serves 6

12 ounces cherry tomatoes

1 large English cucumber, peeled, cut into chunks

12 ounces mozzarella balls (ciliengine), or 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Toasted Bread, recipe follows

Balsamic Dressing, recipe follows

  1. In a large serving bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, mozzarella, basil and toasted bread.
  2. Drizzle some of the dressing, to your liking, over the salad and toss to combine.  
  3. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Toasted Bread:

½ loaf crusty Italian bread, cubed

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. fine sea salt

½ tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Add the bread to a large bowl.
  3. Drizzle the oil evenly over the bread.
  4. Add the salt, garlic powder and pepper and toss to coat the bread.
  5. Place the cubes on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 18 minutes.  
  6. Cool completely before using.

Balsamic Dressing:

3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. balsamic glaze

1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp. fine sea salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper.

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, balsamic glaze and Dijon mustard.
  2. While constantly whisking, drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify.
  3. Add the salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
  4. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

TIP:  This makes a generous amount of dressing.  Dress the salad to your liking.  Also, I use balsamic glaze in this recipe for some depth and sweetness.  If you do not have any, use an additional tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a touch of honey. 

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