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Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
The perfect potluck salad for summer. Grilled Panzanella Salad with zucchini, eggplant, squash, tomatoes, sourdough bread and a tangy basil dressing.
This grilled panzanella salad recipe is my attempt to reclaim the roasted vegetable sandwich. As a long time vegetarian, I’ve had my share of really terrible, soggy vegetable sandwiches. The de-facto choice for most restaurants who don’t care to cater to meatless guests. An afterthought of what to serve– a few slices of grilled vegetables in between bread (usually with some cheese) and that’s it.
I’ve eaten them, you’ve eaten them and it’s enough that I rarely order them anymore unless I know they are good. There is a mile between the good and the bad; when it’s good, they are really good (hello homemade pesto sauce in between the layers, or grilled like my grilled eggplant panini) and when it’s bad well, you know.
Well this is not that. This grilled panzanella salad is one of my favorite ways to celebrate summer. It’s packed with all of my seasonal favorites– eggplant, squash, zucchini, tomatoes– alongside good, crusty bread and the best basil dressing.
It reclaims the idea that grilled vegetables are boring or soggy. Every bite is packed with bright, punchy flavor and I promise that once you try this one, you are going to make it again and again.
My absolute favorite meal is grilled corn on the cob and this salad. Maybe another green option or some sliced, grilled tofu if I want a heartier meal.
Growing up, my mom’s go-to summer meal was corn on the cob, tomato salad and bread. We dined on that at least 1-2x a week in the summer and that experience has fully cemented my love for corn, bread and tomatoes as an acceptable dinner meal.
It’s also the perfect side dish for any grilled protein. My grilled tofu kebobs would be the perfect companion to this meal. For easier prep, you can double the basil dressing as a marinade instead of the mint pesto that recipe calls for.
Using a crusty, few days old bread will yield the best results. Panzanella is traditionally made with leftover, stale bread soaked in yummy tomato juices and olive oil and that’s the same experience we are going for here.
Bread that is too fresh will become soft and soggy when combined with the dressing. I prefer a crusty ciabatta or sourdough for this one, but any french or Italian loaf will work.
If I’m making this more of a meal, then I’ll often grill some tofu to cube and toss in as well. White beans, chickpeas or even mozzarella balls for a vegetarian version work well.
Eggplant can be polarizing, and can be omitted in place of other vegetables like green beans or more squash.
I first created this recipe for a bridal shower almost a decade ago and have served it for numerous celebrations ever since. It’s fantastic to prep ahead of time.
To do so, I recommend grilling the vegetables and placing into a large container, then storing the grilled bread and dressing in separate containers. When ready to serve, toss together until just combined and serve. This ensures that the bread won’t get too soggy as it sits.
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Grilled Panzanella Salad! The best potluck salad for summer. Grilled zucchini, eggplant, squash, tomatoes, sourdough bread and a bright, tangy basil dressing.
*Ideally, the bread should be a few days old. Fresh bread will become too soggy in this recipe.
**If you are using a grill pan instead of the grill, it’s easier to slice the zucchini, squash, and eggplant into thin slabs, then grill and cube.