As a kid Summer was the king of seasons. It was the season of staying up late (sometimes even until 10!), going swimming in the neighbor’s pool, and eating freezie pops by the dozens. It was the time for grilling out, for s’mores, for vacations where we’d sleep in cabins and bathe in lakes. Summer was the pinnacle of experiences. Until it got old. Every year I’d secretly start to long for structure. I wanted days spent doing things other than alternating between Sailor Moon reruns and Harry Potter rereads. Every year, around early-August, I’d start to long for school.
My school days have since past, but about this time every year I start to long for fall. Summer was great and all, but it’s starting to wear out its welcome. I’m tired of the heat, I’m tired of the sweat, I’m tired of wearing shorts. I’m fed up with needing fans upon fans upon fans to sleep. I’m bored with pulling my hair up in a ponytail and drinking iced tea. I want crisp nights and sweaters and hot toddies. I want squash and kale and falling leaves. Does anyone else get bored of summer? Or am I just some freakish anomaly?
Summer’s here for at least another month, so I can either keep complaining or make the best of it. Likely I’ll do both. That means it’s time to take advantage of the few parts of summer I’m not sick of yet. It’s time to drink more rosé, hang out around some lakes, and indulge in the best part of summer- summer produce.
There are many, many good recipes out there for tomato salads. They often involve basil and copious amounts of olive oil. Sometimes they are excellent. Sometimes they are good. And there are many times that they hit the spot. But I wanted to make something that would stand up as a meal, and would pair tomatoes with mint, which is one of my favorite underrated food combinations out there.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t technically a true panzanella. An authentic panzanella tosses cubes of stale bread in water, then wrings them out before adding them to tomatoes. I toss toasted sourdough croutons with the juices of the salad and the dressing instead, and I think it makes a satisfying substitute. If this version of panzanella offends you, I’m sorry. My only excuse is that I’m an American, and our national cuisine is based on the adaptation, borrowing, and stealing of great ideas around the world.
Authentic or not, this is an excellent dinner salad. Ripe peaches and tomatoes are tossed with shredded mozzarella, mint, and sourdough croutons in a shallot-balsamic vinegar dressing. The sourdough croutons drink up the dressing, which leaves them deeply flavored but not soggy. The tomatoes and peaches play nicely together, making every bite a combination of sweet and acidic. The mint keeps things cool, while the mozzarella adds a creamy, indulgent note.
Whether you’re done with summer or are already mourning it’s approaching end, this panzanella is an excellent way to celebrate the season.
Peach and Tomato Sourdough Panzanella
Be sure to taste your dressing and add as much salt as necessary- it’ll be the difference between a salad that sparkles and a salad that falls flat.
2 slices sourdough bread, roughly torn
salt and pepper
4 peaches, pits removed and sliced
4 medium tomatoes, sliced
8 ounces mozzarella, torn
a small bunch of mint, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
flaked salt such as Maldon, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the sourdough with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper on a sheet tray. Toss well to combine. Bake until the sourdough croutons start to go golden around the edges, about 20 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
In a large salad bowl combine the peaches, tomatoes, mozzarella, and half the mint mint. In a small bowl or a jam jar combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and shallot with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir or shake well, then taste. Add more salt and pepper as necessary until the dressing tastes brightly acidic but not unpleasantly harsh. Set aside.
Add the cooled croutons to the salad. Shake or stir the dressing again, and drizzle over the salad. Use your hands to toss well, so that everything is evenly coated. Top with the remainder of the mint and sprinkle with flaked salt.
It’s best to eat this shortly after it’s made. The longer it sits the more dressing and juices the bread will soak up. However, if you like soggy bread, then let this sit for as long as you’d like.