Late Season Tomatoes and Basil

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

A Last Chance for Panzanella – Grilled Bread Salad
Pay homage to the last of the season’s tomatoes and fresh garden basil with panzanella – grilled bread salad.
Chop a pound of ripe tomatoes, any type will do, making sure to capture all their glorious juices to moisten the charred bread, fragrant with garlic and olive oil. You could oven-roast the bread and vegetables, but the grill lends unmatched flavor and provides the perfect excuse to stand at the grill and capture a few precious rays of autumn sunshine.
The bread is important. Unsweetened, rustic Italian-style bread is best. Look for a loaf made with all or mostly whole wheat flour for better nutrition. With roasted eggplant and bell peppers, this is a vegetable-rich salad and bread course rolled into one. Don’t like eggplant? Roast some zucchini, instead. Add some lean grilled chicken or sausages and your meal is done.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Grilled Panzanella with Eggplant, Basil, Tomatoes and Bell Peppers
Keep your eye on the bread when it is on the grill – it toasts quickly, relative to the peppers and eggplant.
1 eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 ounces rustic unsweetened whole wheat bread, sliced*
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 red onion or sweet onion such as Walla Walla, cut crosswise into thick slices
2 yellow and/or orange bell peppers, halved and cored
1 pound tomatoes, chopped, reserving juices
1 to 2 tablespoons white or red balsamic vinegar
1 cup small fresh basil leaves (or torn larger leaves)
1. Lightly sprinkle eggplant slices with salt, place on large baking sheet lined with paper towels or a clean dish towel; set aside for 30 to 60 minutes to allow salt to draw moisture from the eggplant.
2. Heat grill.  Pat eggplant dry with clean towel. Warm olive oil and garlic in small saucepan on the stove (or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave) for 30 to 60 seconds, until garlic sizzles. Cool. Lightly brush garlic-oil on both sides of bread slices,  eggplant and onion slices. Place bread, eggplant slices, onion slices and pepper halves (skin side down) on medium to medium-hot grill. (Grill items in batches if needed.) Grill bread until toasted, turning once. Grill eggplant and onions, turning once, until soft. Grill peppers until skin side is blackened. Remove peppers from grill, cover and cool till warm enough to handle.
3. Peel peppers and chop. Place in large bowl. Add tomatoes with juices,  1 tablespoon vinegar, 3/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste; toss gently. Cut eggplant and onion into bite size piece and add to bowl. Remove crusts from bread, if desired, and tear into bite-sized pieces. Place in bowl along with basil. Toss gently. Add any remaining garlic-oil and add additional balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside for 5 minutes before serving for bread to absorb juices. Makes 6 servings.
Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2011
lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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