This post is sponsored by the California Avocado Commission. As always all opinions are my own.
It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over. For me, this time of year is bittersweet. As much as I hate to see summer go, there’s also so much to love about the season to come. One thing I particularly like about this time of transition is the harvest. Local farms and markets are loaded with delicious, fresh fruits and vegetables at the peak of ripeness. Inspired by the harvest and with a farewell nod to summer, today I’m making an Avocado Panzanella.
I love me some panzanella. If you’re not familiar with the dish, it’s a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes that’s typically served in summer. Chunks of day-old bread and tomatoes are mixed with onions and basil and dressed with olive oil and vinegar. Not surprisingly, the dish has evolved over the years and other ingredients have been have been added – cucumbers, olives, capers, and / or cheese (mozzarella to be specific.)
I got the idea to make Avocado Panzenalla after the folks at the California Avocado Commission contacted me about creating a Dinner en Green. They’d provide delicious California avocados and a few entertaining accessories, and I’d whip up the dish and set the table. You know I couldn’t say no to another chance to gather with family or friends over delicious food.
Given their creamy texture, unique flavor, and bold green color, I thought avocados would make an excellent addition to traditional panzanella. They are also packed with nutrients, and since they are grown in America, they are perfect for my harvest-inspired salad.
Let’s get cooking!
To start, panzanella needs some crusty and crunchy bread. I like to use ciabatta. Roughly cube the loaf into 1-inch pieces. After lightly coating the bread cubes with olive oil and salt and pepper, toast them in the oven. This process will enhance the flavor, add crunch, and help the bread cubes hold up to the dressing.
While the bread is in the oven, prepare your harvest salad. Start with the tomatoes. I like a variety of colors and sizes. Chop them up and add them to a large bowl. Next, it’s time for those California avocados. Remove the stone from each, peel and chop them, and then toss them in with the tomatoes.
For this panzanella, I also recommend adding capers, red onion, and basil. To me, this is an ideal combination. However, feel free to toss in whatever you like.
At this point, your cubed bread should be perfectly toasted. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool.
To make the dressing, just whisk together red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the cooled bread cubes to the vegetables and toss with the dressing.
Voila! Your Avocado Panzanella is ready for your Dinner en Green.
Here's what you will need:
1 loaf ciabatta, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 5 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 California avocados, stoned, peeled, and chopped
4 cups ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
20 basil leaves (Chop large leaves; leave small leaves whole.)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the cubed ciabatta on a sheet pan. Drizzle the ciabatta with 3 tablespoons olive oil. The sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Mix it together with you hands or a large spoon. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Stir once during baking. Allow to cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the avocados, tomatoes, capers, red onion, and basil. Add the bread cubes and toss with the dressing. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed to taste.
Ideally, let the panzanella sit for about 20 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
As you can tell, this is a beautiful and flavorful way to celebrate a wonderful season.
For my tablescape, I used the color green for inspiration. If you’ve been following IBC for any time, you probably know that one of my tips for entertaining decor is: Start with a color scheme. Naturally, I had to use a bit of gold, too. I just couldn’t resist.
While this table is set for two, you could repeat the pattern for as many guests as you’ve invited.
I sometimes like using a table runner in the opposite direction so that it serves as a two-person placemat rather than a traditional table runner.
For a botanical element, I opted for a tall succulent in an ornate pot. It adds a bit of character and texture and is a nod to both California (the succulent) and Tuscany (the clay pot). I also like how it ties in with the Avocado Panzanella, which likewise blends the two locations.
How’s that for fancy?
I hope you’re feeling inspired to take advantage of your local harvest, delicious California avocados, and my Dinner en Green. Why not get together with friends and family to celebrate the end of one season and the start of another?
Want more salad recipes? Check out my favorites below: