Roasted Red Pepper Panzanella with arugula and goat cheese
This is the perfect way to use part of a baguette leftover from dinner the night before. The croutons can be cooked several days in advance, as can the peppers, making this a salad that’s easy on time and resources. The only thing to go big on here is olive oil. Use the best you have, as it really makes a difference.
SERVES 6 TO 8
1/2 day old baguette or Italian bread, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 red, green or yellow bell peppers
2 beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons minced red onion
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
6 handfuls of arugula
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Put the bread in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss to mix. Drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and toss to coat. Spread the bread evenly in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place it in the oven to toast until light golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
While the bread is toasting, roast the peppers over an open flame of a gas stove or under the broiler of the oven, turning often, until charred all over, about 10 minutes. Place in a paper bag or a covered bowl to sweat and loosen the charred skin, about 10 minutes. Slip off the charred outside of the pepper and discard the stem and seeds. Resist putting the peppers under water; this dilutes the flavor. Scrape any small pieces of char left on the skin with a small knife. Slice the peppers into strips and place in the bowl the bread was tossed in.
Add the toasted bread, tomatoes, onion, red wine vinegar, remaining olive oil and basil. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine. Let the salad stand so the juices soak in and flavor the bread, about 10 minutes. Just before serving, add the arugula and toss lightly to combine. Place the salad on a platter and top with the crumbled goat cheese and whole leaves or strips of fresh basil and serve room temperature.
Sidebar: In the Kitchen: Variations
For a more traditional panzanella, eliminate the roasted peppers and add more tomatoes. For a southern version, use warm cornbread croutons, fresh corn kernels, tomatoes and basil.