Meatless Monday: Smoky Panzanella with Market Vegetables

By: Lauren Miyashiro

Photo by: Alice Gao ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Alice Gao, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Strolling through the farmers market or the produce aisle these days, you’ll see lots of beautifully colored summer vegetables. The bell peppers are as red as they should be and the sugar snap peas are at their crispy best. Perhaps you pause to admire but instead pick up some salad mix and head home. I love vegetables, but I don’t always know how to use them.

Traditionally composed of bread and tomatoes tossed together in a vinaigrette, panzanella is rustic salad that’s perfect for showcasing seasonal veggies. A recipe is hardly necessary, but I like to use Kelsey Nixon’s Smoky Panzanella as a base. The french bread toasts to golden perfection in the oven while the bell peppers roast to bring out their natural sweetness. Smoked mozzarella adds a new dimension of flavor that's so good, you'll be making this salad time and time again. Kelsey uses sugar snap peas and heirloom tomatoes, but feel free to use whatever looks best at the market.

1 loaf French bread, cut or torn into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, grated or pressed
1/2 cup olive oil
8 ounces smoked mozzarella, cut into 1/3-inch dice
8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and sliced into thirds on the bias
8 ounces cherry heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

In a large mixing bowl, toss the cubed bread with enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat liberally, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the bread cubes in an even layer on one side of a large baking sheet. In the same mixing bowl, toss the diced peppers with some extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and place them on the other side of the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into the oven to bake until the bread is crispy and golden brown and the peppers have softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Keep an eye on it so the bread doesn't burn!

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard and garlic. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Once the bread is toasted, combine the bread and peppers with the smoked mozzarella, snap peas and tomatoes (you can use the same bowl you tossed the bread and peppers in). Toss the salad with the vinaigrette and add the torn basil leaves. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

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