Love and Olive Oil

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Summerfest is on. As in, make the most of the fresh veggies while you’ve still got them. And if you can do it while only needing the oven for a mere two minutes, even better (oh the joys of a hot and humid tennessee august).

This panzanella, or bread salad, is a great way to keep things fresh and flavorful in the midst of the summer heat. The bread is drizzled in the salad’s juices, then broiled just until it is barely crisp, and topped with the chunky mix of fresh tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and onion. It’s a bit tricky to eat, but worth every messy bite.

I’ve realized that heirloom tomatoes are best enjoyed raw, in their purest form. Cooked, you can’t tell the difference between a cherokee purple and a regular old big boy, so why bother using the expensive stuff? But raw… well… I wouldn’t have them any other way. Not to mention they are beautiful, their bold reds and yellows, gradients of greens and even purples, it’d be a shame to cook all that color right out of them. Yes, I confess we used heirloom tomatoes on our recent pizza experiment, and while it was delicious, it would have been just as delicious with any vine-ripened specimen.

Save those precious heirlooms for something that really brings out their best. Drizzled with a hint of olive oil and tossed with fresh basil and cucumber, all on a slice of freshly baked rustic baguette, well, I don’t think it gets any better than that.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Makes 4 servings. Recipe from Epicurious.

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3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped into 1/4- to 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 medium cucumber, julienned and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 tablespoon fresh basil, torn into large pieces
3 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 whole-wheat baguette, cut into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices
8 basil leaves


Toss first 6 ingredients in a bowl; season with salt and pepper; let stand 30 minutes. Drizzle 1 tablespoon liquid from mixture over bread; broil each side until golden; top with 2 tablespoon tomato mixture. Garnish with basil leaves.

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  1. Saw “Julie and Julia” today and totally thought of you! You’ve inspired me to write more. Thanks for all your great work. You are a creative genius, both in design and the culinary arts! Keep up the awesome work.

  2. Gorgeous pictures! I just posted Panzanella too on my blog! I am waiting for my heirlooms to ripen – I have 12 varieties growing in my backyard! Can’t wait and I agree they are best left uncooked!

  3. Just wanted to let you know that your cupcake recipe cards came in the mail today! I wasn’t sure if I had made the cut or not, so it was a very pleasant surprise! I have a few occasions coming up that would be perfect for cupcakes so I can’t wait to give them a try.

    Thank you so much!

  4. lovely shot! i usually just mix my bread in with everything else, but this presentation is so much nicer.

  5. I’m headed to the farmer’s market in a few minutes, and tomatoes are at the top of my list. I am dying to find some interesting varieties, and I think some kind of panzanella would be a perfect way to use them. Or just slices with olive oil and a little good balsamic. You totally made me crave tomatoes with this post!

  6. This looks really wonderful! I could make a meal out of this (and not share!) all by myself… such a perfect way to use tomatoes!

  7. I just made this and then I came on here and saw it! great cooks cook alike.

  8. ooh, my garden tomatoes would be so perfect in this!

  9. This looks amazing! I love its simplicity and the focus on the fresh flavors.

  10. So pretty! I just love colorful foods. I’m not sure I’ve ever asked you, but what camera and lens are you working with?

  11. There are VERY few things in this world I love better than bruschetta in the summer, and this takes THAT appetizer to a whole new level. Gorgeous.

  12. Wow, that looks too gorgeous for words!

  13. Echo Katie. Thanks for the cupcake recipes. Having a Princess Party for three granddaughters this weekend. Cupcakes will be on the menu!

  14. YUM! Now I know what to have with dinner tomorrow using all our garden tomatoes and the lemon cucumbers my neighbor gave me. Thanks!

    Also, I got the recipe cards for the cupcakes in the mail today. They turned out great! Looking forward to trying the recipes.

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