When it gets unbearably hot outside and all I want to do is sit in the shade with a cold drink in hand, I turn to panzanella. It’s one of the simplest and most satisfying dishes to make during the dog days of summer.
Panzanella is the kind of salad that tricks you into thinking you’re not eating salad, i.e., my favorite kind. It has crunchy toasted croutons, fruit, greens, and some acid from vinegar and/or lemon juice. It comes together without much work AND it tastes even better on day two, something that most salads can’t accomplish.
I decided to add halloumi into this panzanella because I hadn’t had it in a while and I thought that it would pair well with the peaches and basil. I wasn’t wrong. It’s salty and dense and it balances out the sweet tomatoes and peaches. It also tempers the basil and goes well with the shallots.
A trick to making this salad is to combine it layer by layer in a bowl. I start with the sliced shallots. I toss them with a little white wine vinegar to soften them up. Then I toss in the croutons, then the fruit and the cheese, and I end with the basil. Throwing the basil in last ensures that it doesn’t get soggy or bruise as much. Be careful when you toss the salad because basil is a delicate herb and it will get spotty or brown if you crush it too much.
If halloumi isn’t your jam, you could sub in mozzarella or another cheese such as feta into the salad. I would recommend fried or grilled halloumi, though. It gives the salad a little substance and ties the ingredients together.
To make the croutons, find a good loaf of ciabatta or sourdough bread. I like ciabatta because it’s dense and holds up well in the oven. It also ages well, which sounds weird but it’s true. It gets stale after a day or two left out on the counter but that works in its favor. It will create crunchy, delicious croutons that you can store in an airtight container for a few days.
So yeah. Make this salad as soon as possible. Sub in some other stone fruit or greens if you’d like. Play this song while you’re making the salad. It’s good background music.
Peach Halloumi Panzanella
for the croutons:
1 loaf of ciabatta
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp flaky sea salt
for the salad:
1 shallot, sliced
1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 ripe heirloom tomato, sliced into wedges
2 peaches, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
halloumi cheese, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
olive oil for frying
1 bunch of basil, leaves removed
juice of one lemon for dressing
salt and pepper to taste
First, make the croutons. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Tear the ciabatta into bite-size pieces and toss in a large bowl with olive oil and 1 tsp salt. Spread the pieces in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the croutons are golden brown. Don’t overbake–they should be slightly soft in the middle but crispy on the outside. Remove from the oven, toss with a little more salt, and let the croutons cool on the sheet.
Meanwhile, make the halloumi. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the slices of halloumi in the oil and fry until each side is golden brown. Remove the halloumi from the pan and place on a paper towel to soak up some excess oil.
Toss the sliced shallot with the white wine vinegar in a large bowl. Add the tomato wedges, sliced peaches, halloumi, and croutons. Toss the mixture and then add the basil and lemon juice and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper and a little more olive oil if desired. Enjoy!