Panzanella Has Pizzazz
In the most perfect of all worlds, things look as good as they taste. That’s true with this dish. Pink salmon, bright tomatoes (grab multicolored ones if that’s an option), flecks of purpley onion, pale chunks of toasty bread and a drizzle of bright green basil oil — a virtual rainbow.
Matching the array of colors is a variety of textures: soft and tender (salmon), juicy and firm (tomatoes), crispy-chewy (chunks of toasted bread). There is nothing ho-hum about this salad.
While we’re talking about the most perfect of worlds, if you can serve this dish slightly warm, with the salmon recently emerged from the oven, you will be in for another level of sensory happiness.
This is the kind of one-bowl lunch or dinner that is pure summertime happiness. If you can figure out a way to enjoy it outside, all the better.
Make the basil oil up to a couple of days ahead and store it in a container in the fridge. And if the basil oil is one step too many, skip it — add an extra drizzle of plain olive oil at the end, and some slivered fresh basil leaves. Still beautiful, still delicious.
Start to finish: 40 minutes
8 ounces ciabatta bread
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound skinless salmon filets (any number of pieces to equal 1 pound)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (mixed colors look especially nice)
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons basil oil (see note)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Tear the ciabatta into large chunks, about 1 1/2-inches big. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss them to combine, then spread them out on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until the bread starts to brown at the edges. Remove the bread from the oven, transfer to a large bowl, and keep the oven on.
Meanwhile combine the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to blend well. Spray the same rimmed baking sheet you used to toast the bread with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper. Place the salmon filets on the baking sheet and drizzle about half of the oil mixture over them, using a brush to distribute it evenly. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes until cooked through. Remove and let cool slightly.
Use your fingers or a fork to pull the salmon apart into large chunks. Add the halved tomatoes, onions and the warm salmon chunks to the toasted bread in the bowl, drizzle the rest of the dressing over them, and gently toss to combine. Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle the basil oil over the salad and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Note: To make basil oil, place 1/2 cup fresh basil, 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor, and pulse several times to roughly chop. With the motor running, add 1/4 cup olive oil through the top of the processor. When the oil is added, scrape down the sides of the food processor and process again.