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How To Make a Basic Bread Salad (Panzanella)

When I got my first sales job, I'll never forget the best advice I ever got about how to be a good salesperson. For anyone who has ever read How To Win Friends and Influence People, you'll already know this tip. And one of my other favourite books of all time said it again: 'to be interesting, be interested', this is from this book by Paul Arden which is one I have by my side always. In short, one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received is to be a better listener than I am a talker.

I've gone on to become a pretty decent salesperson (and trust me I still talk a LOT), and while there are other skills required in order to truly excel at any craft, the value of listening to other people's perspectives, and actually letting it sink in, has never been of more importance in this crazy world we are living in.

I wanted to share this classic bread salad recipe here, as it's been a faithful standby at our house this summer. It's easy, tastes amazing, and takes advantage of some of the summer's most coveted and fleeting elements: locally grown heirloom tomatoes and nights spent drinking outdoors and cooking on the barbecue. It's also a fantastic way to use up older bread, but with the right style of loaf, you can certainly make it with the fresh stuff too: This is a super simple blueprint, and you could easily make this your own in any number of ways .. add corn like I did here, or roasted peppers in the bread and red onion mixture. Leave the red onions out if you don't have them. Cover the entire lot of it with fresh Burrata and your favourite flaky salt. Do anything you want, just don't undercook the bread, as this is key to the end result. Definitely try to find the best loaf you can get your hands (please none of that anemic white flour bread).

But back to listening.

It's a great thing to observe, the way people listen or don't listen, especially if you are willing to take a look first at the best place to start: yourself. And when I say listen, I mean really listen. I'll be the first to admit I am not always a great listener. I'm worse around those I'm closest with. I'm often distracted or trying to do too many things at once. I need to do a better job of this. I do it to my children, my husband (to be fair he does it back), and to my closest friends. Because of this, I've been thinking lately; how well are we listening on the whole? How often are we waiting for someone else to finish speaking before we take our own turn to speak? Are we really hearing that person who's sharing with us, or are we waiting for our own opportunity to share our experience or view of the world? I can't tell you how easy it becomes to spot once you realize this simple tendency that prevents so many real connections. My own personal view is we can all do a better job of looking outside ourselves and trying to really see the world through the lens of other people, especially those that are not the same as us. Particularly those we might not ‘get’. That starts first with really hearing others. Sitting in someone else's words and absorbing them. I can't help but think of the progress that could be made if we weren't so quick to process people's expressions through the feedback filter that always starts with "I". If you really think about it, you'll start to notice it everywhere.

In the wake of the forest fire smoke currently covering most of British Columbia and many parts of the world, I’m trying to look at the ominous grey covering up the sky as a true wake up call since so many of the other ‘signs’ just didn’t hit this close to home, or affect enough people at one time. Turns out not enough people have been listening. This is the thing: if it doesn’t affect us, we often aren’t moved enough to act.

Were asking some tough questions here in this house about how we can live differently. I’m sure many of you are too. I’d love to hear about what changes you are making if any, or ways you’ve already adapted to lighten the load we place on the planet in our daily lives. And let me know if you make this salad too! It's a goodie.

How To Make a Basic Bread Salad (Panzanella):

~ adapted from Serious Eats

  • 2 pounds mixed tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning (I prefer Himalayan for this)
  • 6 cups of chopped sourdough bread cubes, a whole grain bread is best!
  • 1/2 large red onion, coarsely chopped (cut into similar size pieces as the bread)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil for the bread
  • Pinch of salt for the bread
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh shallot
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Optional: Add fresh burrata to garnish this salad just before serving, and take it to the next level!

Place tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature to drain, tossing occasionally, while you toast the bread. Drain for a minimum of 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the barbecue until high, about 15 minutes. Leave it on high. Alternatively, preheat oven to 350°F if you are using the oven. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes and chopped the red onion with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle salt on them. Transfer to a pan that can be used on the barbecue, or onto a rimmed baking sheet if you are using the oven. Cook on the barbecue, covered until crisp and firm but not browned, about 15 minutes, checking in 5-minute intervals to turn the bread cubes. Remove from barbecue or oven and let cool.

Remove colander with tomatoes from the bowl with tomato juice. Place the colander with tomatoes in the sink. Add the olive oil, shallot, garlic, mustard, 1/2 tsp salt and vinegar to the bowl with tomato juice. Season the dressing to taste with pepper. Combine toasted bread and onions, tomatoes, and dressing in a large bowl. Add the basil leaves, reserving some for garnish. Toss everything to coat and season with salt and pepper as desired. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until dressing is completely absorbed by the bread.

This salad is actually best when made in the morning and enjoyed in the evening. Leave it out at room temperature (lightly covered) to allow the flavours to mingle and the juices to really mix together. I definitely recommend a firm bread for this recipe! The toasting creates a tough surface which allows the bread to absorb the flavours of the dressing without becoming soggy. Leftovers will still be good in the fridge for another day, if you have any! Enjoy!

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