Please Pass the Recipe

sharing recipes from one generation to the next




Salads needn’t be boring. 

My Dad always referred to salad as rabbit food. That was several decades ago when “salad’ conjured visions of shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced tomato and cucumber, pickled beetroot from a can and maybe a little shredded carrot arranged on a plate around a some slices of cold meat cut from the Sunday roast leftovers. There was no dressing. Dad would dollop sweet commercial mayonnaise on his salad.

I tend to agree with my Father’s assessment of Mum’s salad, but that was the style at the time. Thanks to the influence the first wave of migrants from the Mediterranean region had on the way we eat, salad as Australians know it changed for the better. We were introduced to olives and olive oil, roasted red peppers, rocket, pine nuts, capers, anchovies, fresh herbs, radicchio and fennel. This small example of commonplace ingredients, food I take for granted today are from a much longer list of items that I use when I make salads. I was surprised to learn that even amongst my friends though this isn’t always the case. 

We were sharing Sunday lunch recently with friends, a meal to which we each contributed. My big bowl of Panzanella became the centre of attention when someone remarked they had never seen torn bread in a salad before. I was quite surprised to learn that most seated at the table had never heard of Panzanella or the plethora of other traditional bread salads in non Anglo cultures. It was reflecting on that conversation that led to this post.

In Brisbane’s hot summer, we eat a lot of salad, both as an accompaniment to a piece of grilled protein or savoury tart, but more frequently as our main course. Like any dish which is a sum total of it’s parts, a salad needs to be harmonious on the palate, but to really shine it needs to have contrasts of texture and flavours too, a balance of crunch, acidity and savoury sweetness.  The vegetables provide the bulk.

There is no strict recipe for my Panzanella, but here’s a rough guide to what I do. 

My Panzanella serves 2 as a main meal, 4 as an accompaniment

2 thick slices of sourdough bread, crusts removed

3 ripe juicy tomatoes

1 Lebanese cucumber

1 teaspoon sea salt

generous grinding of black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic oil

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 roasted red capsicum, skin and seeds removed

2 stick celery, strings removed, sliced

2 radishes, very thinly sliced ( I use a mandolin )

1 tablespoon salted lilliput capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely snipped chives

1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in half

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Tear the bread into small portions and put it into the bottom of a large salad bowl. Wash and roughly chop the tomatoes and cucumbers and scatter them over the breads.

Sprinkle over the salt and drizzle with the olive oil. Do not toss the vegetables and bread together. Salting the vegetables will draw out the juices and be absorbed by the bed of bread.

Season with a generous grinding of black pepper.

Add the remaining vegetables and herbs in layers in the order listed.

Cover the bowl and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Just before serving, sprinkle over the red wine vinegar then toss the salad to serve.

More interesting and delicious salads using cucumbers:

Chinese Style Smashed Cucumbers Salad

Cucumber Peanut and Coconut Salad

Cucumber Salad with Vietnamese Mint




About ladyredspecs

I live in sunny Brisbane, Australia. My love of good food drives me as a cook, a reader, a traveller, an artist and but mostly as an eater. I cooked professionally for many years but have no formal training. Simply guided by a love of eating good food, respect for ingredients and an abhorrence of artificial additives, I cook instinctively applying the technical know how acquired by experience. I hope you enjoy what I share Sandra AKA ladyredspecs

15 comments on “Panzanella

  1. foodbydi
    March 30, 2019

    This salad looks delicious! I love making the torn bread Middle Eastern salads like fattoush. I usually toast the bread in the oven brushed with olive oil first – I’ll have to try your version.


  2. Ron
    March 18, 2019

    It’s hard to bet a good salad and easy to pass on a boring salad, but your Panzanella falls in the first group. It’s full of wonderfully crunchy ingredients and dressed simply with OVO and a dash of fine red wine vinegar. A perfect lunch salad for me.
    I had to laugh at your “rabbit food” comment, as that’s what my dad called salads as well.


    • ladyredspecs
      March 19, 2019

      Thanks Ron, must have been a generational prejudice against salad, but then the word salad means so much more now


  3. Beck @ Goldenpudding
    March 15, 2019

    Fabulous Sandra! I also love panzanella with roasted tomatoes in autumn and winter when they aren’t so wonderful to eat plain 🙂


  4. Debi @ An Evolving Life
    March 14, 2019

    Bravo! We make panzanella (many many variations) all summer long as a main meal. I like adding cooked beans or chickpeas as a protein source. It seems second nature to me, but still many friends had never heard of it or considered bread as a main ingredient in salads (beyond croutons, that is). We’ve travelled far in time from those rabbit food days!


    • ladyredspecs
      March 15, 2019

      Thank goodness I say. Summer is still in full swing here so there’ll be plenty more panzanella meals in the coming month or two

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mackay Sherry
    March 14, 2019

    Yum yum. It’s such a great salad. My dad and my father in law both referred to salad as rabbit food. And it was as per your description above. Mum always pickled her cucumber slices though. She would slice them up and put them in Malt vinegar and salt I think for a little while before dinner. I guess she was ahead of her time really!


  6. Eha
    March 14, 2019

    Oh Sandra – let’s not look back . . . I remember being a medical student forever in residential schools around NSW and being proudly presented with one of those one slice of this and two slices of that ones: you forgot processed cheese methinks or that odd half-hardboiled-egg 🙂 ! Began making panzanella some three, four decades back – still do . . . it is a great main meal at the end of a busy day . . . can’t better your way of making it . . . . absolutely love it and the past summer in Australia has seen at least half dozen moreish meals along the lines . . . oops, you forgot tinned pineapple . . . yoicks . . .


    • ladyredspecs
      March 15, 2019

      Haha, yes “salad” memorable for all the wrong reasons. Thanks goodness we were saved by the likes of Panzanella


  7. Movin' it with Michelle
    March 14, 2019

    That looks and sounds delicious!!


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