In my almost nine years of living in San Diego, I’ve become a weather wimp.
You may think since I was born and raised in California that I was already a weather wimp, but honestly I wasn’t always this way. I grew up outside of San Francisco in a city called Livermore. It’s located in the “tri-valley” and experienced all seasons weather-wise. In the winter it would often dip down below freezing overnight and in the summer we’d often experience 90-100 degree heat. The spring and fall were somewhere in between and absolutely gorgeous.
After high school, I moved to Texas for college where we’d experience one or two snow days a year and endured summers that were not only crazy hot, but suffocatingly humid (well, at least to this California girl they were). Even though I thought I was going to pass out every time I stepped outside that first hot year, I got used to it and eventually was able to go on long runs and wear jeans in the ridiculous heat and humidity.
Here in San Diego it’s a perfect 70 degrees and sunny most days. I’m not saying that for you to hate me. Why would I want you to hate me? I’m saying it because that’s precisely the reason I’ve become a certified weather wimp. If the temperature is higher than 75 and lower than 65, I find myself complaining that it’s too hot/cold. Every TV weather forecast here begins with “it’s going to be another gorgeous day here in San Diego.” My husband and I always joke that being a weather forecaster in San Diego must be one of the easiest jobs out there because it’s the same weather each day 🙂
There are, though, about two weeks a year when it actually does reach the high 80s or low 90s and our well-insulated, air condition-less apartment is unbearable. We experienced one of those weeks in mid-May and all I wanted to eat were salads so I wouldn’t have to turn on the oven. This salad is perfect for one of those days. It’s filled with fresh ingredients and is light and refreshing. If you don’t want to turn on your stove and make the croutons, you can certainly use pre-made ones and get away from that stove or oven on a hot day!
Happy Summer and Enjoy!
Panzanella with Fresh Mozzarella and Homemade Croutons
Serves 4 as a first course
1 loaf sourdough bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (I used a 14oz sourdough boule from Trader Joes)
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for croutons
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 small red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium English/hothouse cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
25 large basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
8 ounces good quality fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Optional: Maldon finishing salt, balsamic reduction (I used balsamic glaze from Trader Joes), sliced avocado
- Set out the cubed bread in a bowl for about an hour (if you don’t have the time, no problem, just skip this step). Pop a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and add the bread and a few sprinkles of salt.
- Stir the bread frequently until they get nice and brown, about 10 minutes. If the pan gets too dry, add a little more oil as needed.
- While the croutons are browning, combine the onion, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, basil and fresh mozzarella in a large bowl and mix thoroughly to combine all of the ingredients.
- Season with the 1/2 cup olive oil, red wine vinegar and plenty of salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the croutons and mix.
- Serve immediately or let everything hang out together for about 30 minutes to let all the flavors meld nicely.
- I like to serve this salad with a sprinkle of Maldon finishing salt and some balsamic glaze on top, but it’s wonderful as is. Sliced avocado is also a nice touch on top!
To make ahead – The croutons can be made a couple of days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. The salad can also be assembled (minus the olive oil, vinegar and croutons) and kept in the fridge for a couple of hours. Once you’re ready, just add those ingredients and you’re good to go!
A note on the raw red onions – If biting into raw onion is too much for you, soak the onions in cold water for at least 10 minutes to take away some of their “bite.” Just drain them before adding to the salad!
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