Vegan Panzanella Salad: The Perfect Cure for Holiday Overindulgence
December 14 2015

Paris Soliman is a self-taught cook caught in a not-so-secret love affair with vegetables. She lives for green juices and french fries. Luckily, she knows that a well-balanced life means having both and having them often. You can find more of her plant-based recipes on her blog, www.greensandfries.com

Let's face it, after all the delicious overindulgence of Thanksgiving it's really hard to get back into the healthy lifestyle you've been working so hard to adopt since last New Year's Day. It's especially hard going back to work and staying on point at lunchtime. Four-day weekends are never long enough, but the not-so-healthy habits you bring back from them can still throw off your entire work week. Martini at 10 a.m. anyone?! No, just me? Cool.

Anyway, that's why I love this recipe!

Vegan Panzanella Salad

Let's just start by admitting that Panzanella basically means Bread Salad. And there is really nothing wrong with that. Because it's not just bread–it's lots of beautiful, fresh vegetables and colorfully light ingredients that surround the crunchy soaked bread– making this Tuscan dish so perfect you could eat it every day. And for the next two days, we will, but I'll get to that later.

Sometimes you'll find that a traditional Panzanella has mozzarella cheese, which is super delicious, but I've made an equally delicious vegan version by including Kalamata olives. The saltiness of the olives is a great balance and wonderful substitute to any cheese and I highly recommend it this way.

Here's what you'll need:
1 loaf crusty (stale) sourdough bread
3 cups mini heirloom tomatoes
2 Persian cucumbers
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 medium red onion
1 cup pitted black Kalamata olives
3 - 4 tbsp. capers
A handful of fresh basil leaves

For the dressing:
1/4 cup really good extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
1 tbsp. brown mustard
A few splashes of Apple Cider Vinegar
A few pinches of sea salt and crushed black pepper

 Instructions:

  1. Chop all your vegetables into fairly large chunks. This is meant to be a hearty chunky salad, no small dices necessary.
  2. Toss vegetables, capers, and olives in a bowl and let sit.
  3. Tear your bread into rustic 1.5-inch pieces.
  4. Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Toss your bread in a little bit of olive oil and season to your liking. I like to add salt, pepper, dry basil, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast. (You can find my detailed recipe for these Noochy Croutons here)
  6. Spread your seasoned bread on the baking sheet evenly and pop in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
  7. While your bread is baking, it's time to make the dressing. So easy. Are you ready? Add all the dressing ingredients to a bowl and mix vigorously until it's all blended together. Taste. Good? Great! You're done!
  8. When your bread has cooled, toss gently in a large bowl with vegetable mixture. Add all your dressing and mix well.
  9. Top with a chiffonade of fresh basil and enjoy!

I love making a huge bowl of this for dinner and packing the rest for work the next day. It's the most wonderful “his and hers” compromise because he loves his sandwiches, and she is watching her waistline. When I first saw these little Bentgo lunch boxes I thought, "Okay well, I guess we can pack some of our snacks in that." They're so compact I never thought it could hold a whole meal. Don't be fooled. This little box packs my hearty lunch AND lots of snacks to get me through my back-to-the-office-after-a-long-weekend lunch!

I took all the leftover Panzanella and split it with my hubby in the bottom compartments of our His & Hers Bentgo boxes. Our snacks of choice couldn't be more opposite. I like hummus and seed crackers and dried fruits and nuts. While his sweet tooth loves jelly beans and sour candies and sliced apple and peanut butter.

This Vegan Panzanella Salad tastes even better the next day so make sure to make plenty so you'll have extra. Your back-from-vacation-blues just got very tasty!

You can also find this recipe on my blog, www.greensandfries.com