Panzanella is a versatile and delicious salad, and as long as you have sweet fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, you can make something that evokes the pefect summer day.
Bread: Stale bread is traditional here, but almost anything works. Red Hen ciabatta is so full of flavor that it can take the salad to another level, but feel free to use whatever needs to be eaten. Cut bread into chunks, using half a loaf, or a full one, or more, depending on what size crowd you are feeding.
Herbs: Plenty of fresh basil — green, purple, whatever you have — is a must. Use at least a bunch, leaves cut into ribbons. Fresh oregano is also a wonderful addition.
Mozzarella: Ciliegene are the perfect size for making panzanella, or use any fesh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces.
Tomatoes: Fresh local cherry tomatoes will give you the best flavor. Heirlooms or other large tomatoes will work fine, too, though.
Crunch: Persian or euro cucumbers are perfect here, simply quarter lengthwise and chop. If you are using regular slicing cucumbers, slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds before chopping.
Brine: Capers are traditional, but any briny or fermented jar you have open in the fridge can add something special. Chop up some Cauliflower Pickles or Sunshine Kraut, or try Giardineira for a little bit of extra spice and depth.
Dress: Don't skimp on the olive oil. Use a high quality, flavorful oil and plenty of it. In a mason jar, shake together 1/2 oil, 1/4 balsamic vinegar, and some mustard if you like. Add fresh oregano here, and salt and pepper.
Once your salad is assembled and dressed, you will want to let it sit for at least 15 minutes, preferably longer, so that the bread softens and soaks up the flavors around it. Toss again before serving and check for seasoning one last time.
Another great — and picnic friendly — way to serve panzanella is to hollow out a batard-shaped loaf and then fill it with all of the other salad ingredients. Wrap tightly and carry it wherever you are going, then slice and serve.