Back in May Chet and I had the opportunity to travel to Greece for some work and some much needed adventure. We spent most of our time on one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen and explored, Santorini. White, round cave houses with bright blue roofs, narrow cobblestone pathways winding through adorable shops, creperies and restaurants, aqua green water, epic rocky cliffs and the subtle haze of nearby islands in the distance are just a few of my favorite memories from this place.
Oh, and the food! Bread, cheese, tangy dips and fresh produce, not to mention the best cappuccino ever and a local favorite, fava beans. We ate and we loved it all. One meal in particular stood out to me as something I wanted to bring back home in hopes of being transported back to Santorini while sitting on my couch in my sweats in Seattle. Finally, after five months, I made this Caprese Panzanella Salad that brought the island sun and the salty sea smell into our tiny little Pacific Northwest home.
The hospitality in Greece was overwhelming. Both in Athens where we spent the first three days and in Santorini where we stayed for the rest of the trip, we met such incredibly welcoming and friendly people who made us pasty white Americans feel like born and raised Grecians. After an 8 hour ferry ride from Santorini to Athens, we arrived at midnight with no clue where to go. We called a friend we had met at the beginning of our trip, woke him up from a dead sleep, and he drove to pick us up and drop us off at his flat at 1 o’clock in the morning, not without first giving us a drive-by night time view of the Parthenon.
Who does that?! Call me at 1 AM and you get zombie Lindsay who’d probably think way more than twice about rolling out of bed to go pick up your sorry, lost self. I’m a nice person, but I turn into a bit of a death eater once I get tired.
What a gorgeous, messy plate of goodness. The time I ate this meal in Greece was what I like to call, the day of bread. For breakfast we were always given bread and yogurt (FAGE!), of which I ate all of the bread, for lunch we had an appetizer of bread and olive oil (of which we practically demanded) and for lunch I ordered the bread salad (or panzanella for you fancy people). For dinner that night we had bruschetta as an appetizer and I can’t remember what else, but I’m sure a carb was involved. Regardless, if you’re lettuce goes bad, replace it with bread! This is Dr. Atkins’ cue to exit.
Yes, Greece inspired this dish, but our wonderful, elderly neighbor across the street is who kickstarted this to become our dinner. As I was painfully pulling ivy out of our front yard one afternoon, over walks our neighbor with a bag of freshly picked cherry tomatoes from their garden. Win! We’ve been blessed with fresh rosemary, squash, golden raspberries and peanut butter cookies all thanks to our wonderful neighbors this summer. It’s clear that hospitality and friendliness are still alive in this individualistic country we live in, so I’m not taking these cherry tomatoes for granted!
I preach health and love healthy food, but the health meter on this one might be a bit low. I mean it’s bread salad covered in olive oil. It’s probably not meant to be a main course dish, as we ate it, so I would recommend this as a side dish for your next party or family gathering. It’s rich, yet wonderfully fresh as the tomatoes and basil balance out the heaviness of the bread and olive oil. To healthy it up a bit you can try varying the ratios, adding more tomatoes and less bread and leaving off some of the dressing.
Or you can put on your big kid pants and dive in face first.
What to Bring to the Store
If you’re not lucky enough to have a neighbor drop off a bag of fresh tomatoes, then you’ll need a reusable produce bag at the store for these and your basil. I guess that’s it for this one!
On my scale from 1-5 of how much waste my recipes produce, I give this one a 4.5! I can do half points because this is my blog and I make the rules In all seriousness though, only recycling and compost are needed for this recipe to come together. You will recycle (or reuse) your paper bread bag (get a fresh loaf from the bakery), the paper or plastic container your tomatoes might come in and your plastic mozzarella tub. Compost your basil, tomato and garlic remains and you’re done!
- 1/2 loaf of french, italian or other bakery bread
- 1 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes
- 3/4 cup mozzarella pearls
- 1/4 cup basil, cut into ribbons
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut or rip the bread into 1 inch cubes. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 4 minutes, stir, then bake for another 4 minutes until the bread is toasted and crisp.
- Meanwhile, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place in a medium bowl with the mozzarella pearls.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour half onto the tomato mozzarella mixture.
- Transfer the toasted bread into a large dish and pour the dressed tomato mozzarella mixture on top.
- Pour the remaining dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Add the basil ribbons just before serving and toss again.
- Try marinading the tomatoes overnight in an airtight container using half of the dressing. The tomatoes will absorb the vinegar, oil and spices adding a nice boost of flavor! When you go to toss the tomatoes with the remaining ingredients the next day, don't strain them, pour all of the tomatoes with the dressing over top. Add the other half of the dressing and toss all ingredients together.