Vegan Panzanella Salad

It's harvest time already in my cold frame, my lettuce is growing at record pace.

Even though the temps have finally risen and seem to be staying, I cannot remove my cold frame covering because I have a little friend that lives on my property.  This little guy, or gal, likes to dig up my plants, making gardening impossible.  My lettuce is getting pushed down by the covering, but if I want to have lettuce this cover has to remain.  I had to thin out the lettuce and remove the tallest leaves, leaving me with a rather large amount of lettuce to use.  Enter the Panzanella Salad; this salad is known as a Tuscan salad, which features bread (croutons) and tomatoes with a olive oil and vinegar dressing. This salad is perfect for the warmer months, and in the cooler months add a big bowl of tomato soup, perfection!

Making this salad is not an exact science.  I will give you veggie ideas to put in the salad, but I'd say that if you have carrots (use them), artichokes (go for it), onions, olives, or cucumbers (delicious).  The main ingredients you should use are: bread (croutons), tomatoes, olive oil, and vinegar.

Any type or mixture of lettuces that you like can be used.  For this salad, I was making it for two people, so I used about 4 cups of lettuce.  We also had plenty of panzanella leftover and this salad only gets better when allowed to sit over night.

Wash you lettuce thoroughly; I recommend using a salad spinner.  There is nothing worse than soggy lettuce in your salad.  A spinner whips off all moisture, leaving you with perfectly clean and dry lettuce.

You will need croutons to push this salad over the top.  I make my own. You can use stale bread if you have it.  I cube the bread and place it on a unbleached parchment lined baking sheet.  Drizzle organic extra virgin olive oil, organic garlic powder, and organic dried dill over the cubes and mix with a large spoon.  Spread out the cubes evenly on the baking sheet before placing in the oven.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

To my salad, I added, carrots, onion, olives, tomatoes, and croutons.  Place lettuce and veggies in a large bowl; in a small bowl whisk together 1/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons organic vinegar.  I also add 1 tablespoon organic Dijon mustard and salt and pepper to taste.  Now, you will want to alter these amounts for the size of the salad, or to make it a drier salad, or instead to drench to dressing.  Pour the dressing over the salad and mix.  Add the croutons, and mix again.

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