Here it is, mid-September, and the tomatoes in our garden are just now starting to turn red. (The grape tomatoes, not the big ones yet.) I picked a basket of grape tomatoes yesterday, so even though I do realize that summer is ending in less than a week, I’m going to go ahead and post a wonderful summer salad recipe. This dish needs  juicy, ripe, bursting-with-flavor tomatoes. Any kind will do- in fact, if you use different types and colors it makes for a more vibrant salad.

The other key ingredient is the bread. Over the years I’ve used many different kinds of loaves: rosemary, olive, sourdough and garlic. It’s all good. Just make sure it’s a thick, rustic kind of loaf. Day-old bread is even better. It’s important to toast the bread first or it will get completely mushy when you add the dressing. You can grill it or toast it in the oven. (Instructions below.)

I’m feeling sad about summer coming to an end and I’m feeling blue about my green tomatoes left on the vines, but what’s helping me get over it is the thought of pumpkin pie. So long summer!


Panzanella Salad

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
  • 1 pound loaf rustic country bread, sliced then torn into 1- to 1½-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 large tomatoes, cut into ½-inch chunks, or a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved, or a mixture of different tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 unpeeled cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, then into ½-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup sliced olives, either black or kalamata (optional)
  • ½ cup basil leaves, chopped, plus additional for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. In a small saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat; when oil is hot, add garlic cloves. When garlic starts to sizzles, remove the pan from heat and set aside until cool.
  2. Toss bread in a large bowl with 3 tablespoons of the garlic-infused olive oil. Place on a baking sheet. Toast bread until lightly golden and crispy, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
  3. To make vinaigrette: Combine remaining olive oil (& garlic) with vinegar, shallot, ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper, and mix well.
  4. In a large bowl, toss bread, tomatoes, onion, olives and cucumber with vinaigrette and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with additional basil.