The end of summer always feels so abundant. So much fresh, seasonal, sweet fruits and veggies ready to be picked and eaten. Tomato plants growing like weeds. Squash and pumpkin vines winding their way through gardens. I even get to snack on blackberries from the bushes on my neighborhood trail each day as I walk the dogs!
Tomatoes are one of my favorite things to eat, so naturally I grow them in my yard. They taste like candy when they are in season and are the thing I look forward to most this time of year.
But tomatoes frustrate me. In late summer my tomato plants take over my garden and I have too many tomatoes than I know what to do with. (I also get them from my CSA at Wild Hare, so there are a lot of them around our house.) But I feel like I have to enjoy them while they are here because tomatoes have very little taste when they aren't in season, IMO.
Why can't they just casually grow throughout the year and always taste like candy?
This Summer Panzanella recipe came about because of my need to not waste a single tomato during this end of summer overload.
Panzanella is an Italian salad made of bread that has been soaked in olive oil and vinegar and usually includes tomatoes and basil. I have tried out some recipes before and it has always been delicious, but I wanted to increase the amount of seasonal plants and improve the gut health benefits a bit.
This is what I came up with and it is REAL good.
Gut Supporting Components
The most important component to this salad for taste and health reasons is to use real, seasonal food. The sourdough bread used should be high quality bread. You don't want it to be bread that can sit in the pantry for weeks and not get moldy. You want the real stuff, from a bakery that you trust. Real sourdough bread is fermented, making it great for gut health because of the probiotics. Grab a real, fresh loaf of sourdough for this recipe and you will enjoy some gut benefits.
This recipe also has a couple of raw alliums- garlic and shallots. Both of these offer healthy prebiotic bacteria, helping to feed and nourish the probiotic bacteria in your gut.
Additionally, I use a bit of apple cider vinegar to give this salad a bit of tang. The apple cider vinegar (if it's raw and has the "mother") is another fermented food, again, supplying your gut with probiotic bacteria that helps it run smoothly.
Tomatoes and cucumber aren't necessarily gut health all-stars, but they have many other health benefits and, when in season, make this salad the sweet and satisfying meal that it is.
This salad is PERFECT as a side for an end of summer get together, as your lunch for a few days, or just something to throw together because you need to use up the rest of your cucumbers and tomatoes.
Gut Supporting Summer Panzanella
Makes about 8 sides or 5-6 meal sizes, takes about 25 minutes to make
1 loaf of sourdough bread, diced into 1/2-1 inch cubes
3 tablespoons + 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (could use a medley of tomatoes)
1 medium cucumber
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon raw honey
3/4 teaspoon salt + more to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup basil, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the sourdough cubes on one large or two small baking sheets. Drizzles with 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss. Place in the oven and bake about 15 minutes or until just starting to brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
While the bread is cooking, place the chopped tomatoes in a strainer/collander. Place the strainer over a large bowl and sprinkle the tomatoes with a little bit of sea salt. Let the tomatoes sit in the strainer over the bowl for 5-10 minutes (while you get everything else ready), tossing every couple of minutes so the juice from the tomatoes drizzle into the large bowl.
Meanwhile, wash and chop the cucumber into bite-sized pieces. Mince the shallots and garlic. Chop the basil.
Place the big bowl with the tomato juice on the counter and place the strainer with the tomatoes in the sink. In the bowl with the tomato juice, add the remaining olive oil (1/3 cup), shallots. garlic, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, mustard. honey, and salt and pepper. Whisk it together.
Add the bread to the large bowl and stir until the dressing has coated the bread. Add the tomatoes and the basil to the bowl as well. Mix until well incorporated, let sit for about 20-30 minutes, and serve!
I think this salad is best when it has sat on the counter for about 30-60 minutes before serving. The bread should be slightly soggy, slightly crunchy still. However, this salad does keep in the fridge for a few days and still taste delicious. The bread will gradually get soggier, as it's supposed to, but the flavor will get even better!
Recipe is vegetarian. Can be made vegan by swapping the honey for pure maple syrup. Can be made gluten-free by using a gluten free bread.