Greek Panzanella Salad

We spent most of Sunday afternoon out on the deck, finishing our planters, moving heavy urns, laying an outdoor carpet and generally preparing the area for outdoor living over the next three months. By dinnertime, all we wanted to do was relax on our lawn chairs, break bread together and enjoy the fruits of our labour. I had bought Greek souvlakis earlier in the week but didn't want to resort to traditional Greek salad as an accompaniment so was happy to stumble across this Greek version of Italian panzanella salad. Instead of basil, I threw in some fresh oregano, as well as some diced feta, peppers and cucumber. You can also add olives if your family likes them (mine doesn't). Since my bread was so fresh, I ended up toasting the bread cubes before tossing them in the hot olive oil. Allowing the salad to rest for 30 minutes in the vinaigrette while we grilled the chicken made all the difference in the bread absorbing the zippy flavours. Besides its great taste, the best thing about this salad was that it was simply enough. Enough as a salad, as a carb, as a side dish. None of us needed anything more... not even dessert. And that's high (and unusual) praise.

Greek Panzanella
adapted from Ina Garten
serves 6

good olive oil
1 small loaf of rustic bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted

For vinaigrette

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed.

Place the cucumber, peppers, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, 1 tsp salt and pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives (we skipped because no one likes them) and bread cubes, and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavours to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Rest of the week

June 4 Had fancy-pants dinner at Granite Club for Corbin's grade 12 graduation

June 5 Tried new Indian restaurant on Queen St.
June 6 Chicken souvlakis with Greek panzanella salad

June 7 Crazy night... everyone fending for themselves due to Maddie's music theatre production