Thursday, October 08, 2009

Melon Panzanella...

Panzanella is traditional known as a bread salad that has fresh tomatoes in it, but recently we made a version of the popular dish that swapped out the tomatoes for an unexpected ingredient. While playing on the sweetness the tomatoes would have added, this Melon Panzanella called for using any type of firm, ripe melon - in our case, it happened to be cantaloupe!

Honeydew, casaba or even watermelon were recommended and while our market had most of them on sale, the scent and texture of the pale tangerine fleshed cantaloupe was the best of the bunch. Rather than using stale bread, we took a few slices of a hearty whole-wheat, cubed them and let them dry out in the oven set at a fairly low temperature. You're not looking for them to gain color and toast, but just firm up and dry out enough that they can absorb a dressing and not turn into mush.

To give the oil used in the dressing a bit more bang-for-the-buck, it was first heated and used to sizzle strips of salty prosciutto, turning them light and crispy. This also gave us a chance to remove the raw harshness from a couple cloves worth of minced garlic by tossing them in to soften when the prosciutto was done. The warmed dressing was then completed by stirring in red wine vinegar and seasoning it with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Tender leaves of baby spinach were our green of choice, though peppery arugula would be an excellent option if you can find it in your market. Tossed with the melon, sliced into cubes, the salad was completed by adding in chopped fresh basil, the barely toasted bread and the prosciutto mixture. To give the magic of the dressing time to work, you'll want to set the salad aside, giving the bread time to soak in the flavors and soften slightly - which comes in handy when you need extra time to give the main dish attention! So refreshing and light, I loved the excitement this produced when we served this to a couple friends we had over - different enough that one is surprised, yet still familiar that was is comforted and inspired by the simplicity!


  1. Ooh - I love the idea of adding melon to panzanella - this looks great!

  2. Ashley - We thought it was definitely a refreshing way to spruce it up!