The day has come! The six tomato plants we (and when I say we, I mean Kevin) harvested back in May are finally producing bright red, juicy, and irresistibly sweet tomatoes. We’ve had them on BLTs, but today’s Greek Panzanella with Fried Goat Cheese Balls is officially the first recipe to utilize them.
Have you heard of panzanella??
If you haven’t here’s the lowdown: At its core, it’s a classic Italian salad made with almost-stale bread, fresh summer tomatoes and some type of oil and vinegar mixture. What happens is the juice from the tomatoes and the vinaigrette trickle into the stale bread, making it super soft and crazy flavorful.
It’s one of my favorite easy salads to throw together, and I love that it it’s hearty enough to suffice for a meal.
What’s also great about panzanella is it’s completely adaptable to what you have on hand or what season you’re in. Since we’re in the midst of summer, I stuck to a classic preparation with a Greek twist, but in the fall, I love to toss the crispy bread with roasted butternut squash, blue cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. In the winter, it’s lovely with roasted mushrooms, pecorino cheese, sage and sherry vinegar.
Basically, if you have bread and some seasonal ingredients, you can make a panzanella salad.
While I typically try to use up old artisan bread as it’s intended, this time I saw an asiago ciabatta at the grocery store I had to have, and thought it would be the perfect compliment to the summer tomatoes and Greek-influenced ingredients. So instead of tossing stale bread with tomatoes and a vinaigrette, I cut the bread into cubes, tossed them with a little bit of olive oil and some salt, and then toasted them in a 350 degree oven until they were slightly crisp and just barely golden brown.
For the Greek piece of the puzzle, I threw in pitted and halved kalamata olives, plenty of thinly sliced red onion and then tossed everything in a super easy red wine vinaigrette.
Now, you could stop here, serve as is, and be none the wiser, but I love to add a cheesy element to all of my panzanella salads, so to take this over-the-top, I decided to whip up some fried goat cheese. It adds this wonderful creamy counterpart to the crisp bread and soft tomatoes, and I love how that it also adds a hint of tanginess to the finished product.
For a little bit of color and extra freshness, I finished the salad off with plenty of fresh basil. You can serve this right away, but sometimes it’s even better when it’s left to sit and soak for an hour or so.
Any other tomato recipes you’d love to see before summer is over??
- 3 1/2 cups cubed ciabatta bread (I used asiago ciabatta, but you can use whatever good-quality bread is your favorite!)
- 1/2 tsp salt, divided
- 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 5 oz goat cheese
- 1/2 cup panko breadrumbs
- 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
- 1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, but into six wedges
- 8 cherry tomatoes, halves
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- Canola oil for frying
- medium sauce pan
- Mixing bowl
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add bread to a medium sheet pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Use hands to toss the bread and coat in the oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. Toss one more time. Bake for 10-12 minutes until slightly golden brown.
- Divide the goat cheese in to eight pieces. Roll each one in to a ball. Add panko, plain breadcrumbs, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp oregano to a small bowl. Mix to combine. Dip each ball in to egg, drip off excess. Dredge in bread crumbs mixture. Dip back in egg, then back in panko. Make sure to get all excess breadcrumbs and egg off each time. Repeat with remaining goat cheese balls. When they are all breaded, pop in the freezer to chill while you prepare everything else.
- Add bread, tomatoes, onion and olives to a large serving bowl. Toss.
- Whisk red wine vinegar, dijon and honey together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the tomato and bread mixture. Toss until completely coated. Set aside.
- Add enough oil to a small saucepan to go up 3/4 of the sides. Heat to 350 degrees. (I kept mine at a medium heat). Once the oil has come to temperature fry goat cheese balls until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels.
- Add goat cheese balls and basil to the salad mixture. Gently toss. Serve!