Grilled Vegetable Panzanella Salad

Traditionally this Italian bread salad is made with fresh tomatoes and day old stale bread. But I wanted to give it an extra dimension. I decided to grill the tomatoes, this way taking advantage of their full health benefits, which are unlocked by cooking, but I also added some grilled zucchini and eggplant. The result is a lovely complex meal loaded with vitamins and minerals and truly satisfying. And, should you actually have some leftovers – this salad tastes even better the next day.

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6 slices of crusty country bread (about 3 cups when cubed)
3 cloves garlic, divided
3 medium size zucchini
1 small Italian egg plant
6 tomatoes
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, cut into small dice about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly torn
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 olive oil

Toast the bread in your toaster, then rub with some of the garlic. Rip into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Cut the zucchini and the eggplant lengthwise into about 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices, brush with some of the olive oil and grill on direct heat on both sides, until softened and showing nice grill marks. Throw the tomatoes whole on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally. If you can't grill the vegetables, place them on a baking sheet with tinfoil. Roast them in the oven at 375 °F for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the veggies to a bowl and let sit until cool enough to handle. Then cut them into bite size pieces making sure you save all the accumulated juices for your marinade.

In a large bowl combine the grilled veggies, salt, pepper, onion and bread. Finely chop the remaining garlic and add to the bowl. Toss with the vinegar and olive oil. Stir in the basil and let the salad marinade for at least 30 minutes.

Before serving, taste and adjust seasoning adding more salt, pepper or vinegar, if necessary.