This salad made me smile. The kind of smile that sprouts from within. You can’t control it or provoke it. It just makes its way forth. I knew this salad was special when I felt my lips curling into that smile. It is pure summer, pure bright and pure deliciousness.
Panzanella is an Italian classic salad, made out of tomatoes and stale bread cubes. It has traveled around through lots of variations, but it always needs these ripen sweet tomatoes and those dried bread cubes ready to absorb all the juices.
At first my answer to a summer panzanella was simple; add corn. That’s already my solution to most of my salads so why the hell not?! But after being marrying flavors in my head to create this dish I came up with the idea of adding sweet strawberries too.
There was no stale bread around my house. What I had was a stale sweet cornbread atop of my crowded kitchen counter. Since it’s summer that would do perfectly.
So yes. It made me smile. With the flavors of the vinaigrette the strawberries got an enhanced sweetness note that pairs perfectly with the subtle charred flavor of the corn. And the lime and garlic notes from the croutons make these pieces of the bread little cubes of fun. We served it with grilled shrimp and I truly regret not including them in the recipe because they were perfect together. But you can make some nice grilled prawns with lime and garlic and have a meal that will make you smile too!
1. I used this sweet cornbread that I bought in my local bakery but you may as well use the croutons recipe with baguette or sourdough cubes, just omit the last 10 minutes in 325° when they are baking in the oven.
2. Use the freshest ingredients you can
3. Mix the salad with the vinaigrette just when you are ready to serve or no more than 5 minutes from serving to prevent sogginess and mushiness.
Strawberries and cornbread croutons panzanella
Serves 4 to 5 servings
Total time - 45 minutes Active time - 20 minutes
Cornbread cubed in ¼” approximately – 3 to 4 cups
Salted butter – 5 TBSP
Extra virgin olive oil – 1 TBSP
Fine sea salt – ¼ Tsp
Ground or finely chopped garlic – ¼ Tsp
Lime zest – 1 lime
Freshly ground black pepper – 1 pinch
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large skillet heat the butter with the olive oil. When the butter starts melting add the salt, garlic, lime zest and pepper and mix. Toss in the cornbread cubes and gently move them around so that each piece is covered with the butter and oil. Sauté for 2 minutes. Transfer the cubes to a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Turn them upside down and bake for 5 minutes more. Lower the oven temperature to 325° and bake for 5 more minutes. Gently toss the croutons and bake for 5 extra minutes. Let them cool down completely before storing.
Ripen Campari tomatoes, cut in halves or ripen Roma tomatoes, cut in fourths – 3 to 4 cups
Strawberries, cut in halves – 3 cups
Red onions, finely sliced in half moons – 1 cup
Grilled corn removed from the cob – 2 cobs (1 to 1 ½ cup if using canned or frozen – see notes)
Cornbread croutons – 1 ½ to 2 cups
Basil leaves, chopped – 1 TBSP or more to serve
Mint leaves, chopped – 1 TBSP or a bit more to serve
Combine all the ingredients except the croutons in a bowl. Combine with the desire amount of vinaigrette when ready to serve. Top with the croutons.
Red wine vinegar – 3 TBSP
Creamy Dijon mustard – ¼ Tsp
Freshly squeezed lime juice – ½ Tsp (a gentle squeeze of half a lime)
Ground oregano - ⅛ Tsp
Raw or natural sugar - ⅛ Tsp
Fine sea salt – ½ Cdta + 1 Pinch freshly ground black pepper – good sprinkle
Extra virgin olive oil – ⅓ cup
Fresh basil leaves, chopped – 3 TBSP
Fresh mint leaves, chopped – 2 TBSP
In a medium bowl combine the red wine vinegar, mustard, lime juice, oregano, sugar and salt. Using a hand whisk start beating and slowly pour the olive oil until just combined. Toss in the basil and mint leaves and add an extra pinch of salt and lime juice if needed. Combine once more and store in the fridge until ready to use.