This panzanella takes me back to when I was a kid who had a thing for raw zucchini. The same odd child that loved anchovies on Greek salads and munching on raw green onions like they were carrot sticks. We never had a salad this fancy or anything, but it reminds me of how delicious raw zucchini is on its own. Soaked in good olive oil and red wine vinegar. Simplicity at its best.
Panzanella is traditionally made with stale bread and tomatoes, but Mario Batali’s version of cucumbers and zucchini is a twist on the classic salad with very little adaptation needed.
Have you ever heard of burpless cucumbers? I didn’t know much about them either until I asked the farmer. How are they different compared to the normal variety you see at the store? According to the farmer, it’s the best tasting cucumber ever. It’s sweet, seedless, and one of their most difficult crop to grow. But of course I thought to myself, why are they called burpless? Do cucumbers really make you burp, and I just haven’t noticed this whole time? All I can say is, after eating this panzanella, the cucumbers weren’t so burpless…unless I just inhaled my food to fast. Who knows.
The key to this salad is to use stale bread so that it doesn’t get soggy when tossed with the olive oil and vinegar. The bread is warmed and toasted in the oven to add even more crunch. I love this seeded bread which adds some texture to the salad.
Since we’re working with raw ingredients, use the best quality that you can…especially the olive oil and red wine vinegar. Make sure to use extra virgin olive oil because it’s fruitier and has more flavor than regular olive oil. I used this aged red wine vinegar that is budget friendly.
The veggies and bread soak up the flavors for a refreshing late spring panzanella.
Cucumber and Zucchini Panzanella
barely adapted from Molto Batali
The key to this panzanella is to make sure the bread is somewhat stale before toasting in the oven so it won’t become soggy when tossed with the oil and vinegar. Use good quality ingredients, especially the olive oil and red wine vinegar for best flavor.
1 cucumber, trimmed and thinly sliced (preferably seedless variety)
1 zucchini, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
10 fresh basil leaves, torn
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups day-old multigrain or seeded bakery bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large salad bowl, add the cucumber, zucchini, onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and half of the basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the bread cubes on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until warmed and toasted. Add the bread and remaining basil to the veggie mixture. Gently toss to combine. Let the panzanella sit for 5 minutes to soak up the flavors before serving. Season with salt and pepper to taste.