Heirloom panzanella

Maggie and Heal’s cakeBack in June, my friends Maggie and Heal got married.

This might not seem like a big thing to announce a month and a half later, but it’s a huge thing. They are one of my favorite couples, because they are generous and kind and throw wonderful dinner parties and know all kinds of things about plants and cultivate this atmosphere of warmth and love that I can only aspire to. And yet, they had to go to Canada to get married, which meant they held receptions in California, where Maggie hails from, and then, just this past weekend, in their lovely, luscious yard here in Iowa City.

When I received my reception invitation back in May, I noted that guests were to bring a potluck dish, and because I’m me, and some might say I’m a freakish planner, and also because I’m a little obsessed with food, I began planning what I might bring. I didn’t settle on something immediately, but I did decided, for sure, that whatever I brought would have to heavily feature garden products. Because, after all, Maggie and Heal gave me my first gardening lesson, and let Steve and I borrow their shovel, and apparently got to the point in their confidence about my gardening abilities that they actually asked me to be part of their watering team while they were away. Getting married.

I settled on panzanella, an Italian bread salad, because it keeps well outside and should be served at room temperature (in other words, it’s the ideal summer potluck dish…), but also because I could marry several elements: Simone’s locally-baked bread; every kind of tomato I have ripening in my garden right now; cucumbers from Acoustic Farm; red onion from Lena’s Farm in Springville, Iowa; my herbs; garlic from a farmer whose name I can’t remember, but who sells at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market; and vinegar and olive oil purchased at the local Co-op. It seemed the only way to appropriately honor this couple who has given so much to me and my garden, and who have so much love for the land and seasons here in Iowa City.

For this salad, I used almost every tomato I’m growing. I left out the Gold Medal variety, which didn’t have any ripe ones at the appointed hour, and the Mexico Midgets, because they’re so cute and tasty on their own that it seemed a waste to put them in a salad. This version included Brandywine, Amish Paste, Stupice, Green Zebra and Yellow Pear.

Heirloom panzanellaHeirloom Panzanella
(Serves 60, if everyone just takes a generous spoonful)

One baguette, diced
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
2/3 c. red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
One handful of Italian parsley, minced
The juice of two lemons
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Approximately three pounds of mixed heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
Two large cucumbers, seeded and diced
One small red onion, diced
Mixed olives, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 c. basil leaves, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread cubes in a pan and toast for approximately 20 minutes.
  2. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper, Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion and olives. Add bread cubes.
  4. Whisk the dressing again and pour over vegetable-bread mixture. Add basil. Stir to combine.
  5. Let stand for at least two hours to let the flavors combine. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper. Serve.

This recipe was adapted from Joy of Cooking. You can refrigerate the leftovers—they are good for approximately two days before the bread loses all recognizable characteristics of bread.

This is my entry for this week’s edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, This week’s host is Melissa from Cooking Diva. Please stop by late in the weekend for her full round-up of great recipes and herb tales!

P.S. That glorious, glorious cake pictured at the top? Maggie’s sister made that…and all the flowers and herbs on it are from their garden. Is that not the best thing ever?

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11 Responses to “Heirloom panzanella”


  1. 1 Michelle August 11, 2007 at 7:36 am

    Oh my gosh! That sounds really delicious! I may just have to have a go at that myself!

  2. 2 inadvertentgardener August 11, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Michelle, it’s really good, and gets better as it all marinates together. It’s really fresh-tasting and delicious!

  3. 3 Lydia August 11, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    I love panzanella and make it all summer (along with its close cousin, gazpacho — similar ingredients in different proportions!). How nice to have heirlooms from your own garden to make this delicious salad.

  4. 4 inadvertentgardener August 11, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Lydia, I haven’t made gazpacho yet this summer, but I think Monday night, it’s going to happen. Or maybe tomorrow night. We’ll see. It’s definitely on the agenda!

  5. 5 melissa_cookingdiva August 11, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    Great post for WHB#95! thank you for joining Us!

    Melissa

  6. 6 jackiesgarden August 12, 2007 at 6:59 am

    This recipe made my mouth water! I’m going to try it as soon as I start getting enough ripe tomatoes. Nice you got to celebrate with your ‘gardening’ friends.

  7. 7 inadvertentgardener August 12, 2007 at 8:02 am

    Melissa, thanks for hosting!

    Jackie, it was a great celebration — such a fun party!

  8. 8 Me August 12, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    That sounds absolutely fabulous!! I will have to make it sometime when my parents visit as I am confident my husband wouldn’t like it (bread comes in one form only for him).

    Makes me drool!!

  9. 9 inadvertentgardener August 12, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    Me, I definitely recommend giving it a try — it’s so tasty and refreshing on a hot summer’s day!

  10. 10 Kalyn September 15, 2007 at 9:38 am

    I’m happy to see that Melissa is doing better and has finally posted the recap for this WHB. Thanks for being so patient.

  11. 11 inadvertentgardener September 16, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Kalyn, that’s good news about the round-up — thanks for alerting me about it!


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