I’ve mentioned how my sisters, niece, daughter and I get together for our birthdays and call it a SOTT. We coined it “Sisterhood of the Traveling Tiara” in memory of the movie and a tiara we bought for the birthday gal to wear. The tiara is worn out to lunch or to the coffee shop, wherever the birthday gal has chosen to visit on her special day. We have sequined headbands for the rest of us to wear and boas we’ve been known to wear out in public as well! It’s all in fun and we do get attention at times, dressed up on a Saturday and out on the town!
We started the SOTT celebrations the year I turned 50. Ooops, I admitted that. Aw, I’m not ashamed. We had a photo taken at a portrait studio of our group wearing our festive wear. We invited my Mom that year as a special guest. When Linda turned 50 we again hit the studio and hammed it up for a photo. We have a few years to wait for Dawn to turn 50, but it will be fun to return to the studio once again.
In one of our more recent SOTTs I made this salad as a lunch entree. We all loved it and I’ve made it several times for my P.S. and I since. It’s a very simple salad and that’s a good thing during summer months when nobody wants to eat anything heavy. Aside from blanching the asparagus, no heat is involved in making this dish. Plus it can all be made earlier in the day when it is cooler and assembled right before eating. Leftovers also lasts in the fridge for a day or two without losing any crunch and taste.
This salad was the result of a salad I’d tried on a buffet in a Minneapolis restaurant. When I did a Google search using some of the ingredients I remembered in the dish, I found the salad was called Panzanella. The creamy dressing on the salad had a nice kick to it at the restaurant and I wanted something similar. When I found the creamy dressing with curry powder I decided that would be a nice snappy seasoning to compliment the veggies and bread.
Panzanella is simply a Florentine (Italian) salad that uses day old crusty bread that’s been soaked in water and wrung dry. Then various vegetables are added to make the salad. It usually has an oil and vinegar type of salad dressing. Just reading a definition is off-putting. Soggy bread? No thank you. Yet I knew the salad I’d eaten was not soggy from water, it had a more creamy dressing. I don’t think there was curry in that panzanella salad but I found a recipe somewhere that included curry powder.
I didn’t save the site and apologize if anyone feels I’ve stolen a recipe. I honestly don’t remember if I followed any one recipe or combined several and made my own revisions. I always have to revise; it’s in my nature and the nature of what is in my cupboards and spice cabinets.
First, I changed the bread. I don’t use old bread, I use a fresh, soft insides, crusty outsides loaf of French bread. Technically it is probably a large baguette. I cut it into one inch chunks and use about 5 cups of these chunks for the recipe. I mix the dressing ingredients and then pour it over the bread chunks and stir until coated.
I get most of my compliments on this salad because people like the bread as the base of flavor because it contains the dressing. When eaten immediately, it retains its chewiness. If we’re just eating the panzanella at home, my P.S. and I, we mix the dressing in individual servings so the bread doesn’t get soggy and lifeless soaking in the dressing in the fridge. Nobody wants to eat soggy leftovers!
It’s best to blanch the asparagus and prepare all of the vegetables first and assemble in a large bowl. Then in a second bowl put the bread chunks and dressing together and stir. Finally, stir in the vegetables. You’re ready to serve! I’m not a big fan of cilantro but it does add a nice touch to the salad. It is fine without the cilantro, the choice is yours.
We’ve also eaten the salad forgetting to add the cheese; it’s flavorful and hearty even without cheese. If you want to cut some calories or dairy out of your food, it wouldn’t make a huge difference in flavors. Another option would be to make it meatless. Ham adds some nice smoky flavor to the salad but it isn’t necessary. I’ve also substituted sour cream when I was out of Greek yogurt.
Asparagus started appearing in our produce sections and I was reminded of this recipe. The recipe is a good base start to being creative with what is in your refrigerator or garden. Keep an eye out for seasonal produce. Feel free to add different veggies such as chopped spinach, grated carrots, cubed zucchini or summer squash, etc. I’ve even added some frozen corn (thawed and rinsed) with good results. Have fun with it!
Panzanella Curried Salad
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons Salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon lemon juice; fresh or bottled
5 cups french bread, cubed
3 cups asparagus; blanched, cooled
1 can black beans; rinsed
2 cups cucumber; diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or whole grape tomatoes)
1/2 cup sweet bell peppers; diced
1 can black olives; sliced
1/4 cup green onions; sliced
1 cup meat; ham, turkey, chicken, pork
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese + more for topping
Mix first 5 ingredients with fork in a large bowl, stirring after each addition. Add bread cubes and stir until bread is coated. Add rest of ingredients and toss if serving immediately. Sprinkle each serving with more mozzarella cheese.