Tomato and Grilled Vegetable Panzanella

When I want the quintessential summer salad to serve guests, or myself for that matter, I often think of an Italian Panzanella (Tomato and Bread Salad).  Traditionally, it’s made with fresh tomatoes, chunks of stale bread, onions, olive oil and basil.  I must say that, I can’t ever do things exactly as I am supposed to in the kitchen.  I must have about 8 different ways I make my Panzanella.  This version is one of my loves!

Tomatoes are rich in anti-oxidants vitamin C, A, the carotenoid, lycopene and fiber.  Vitamin A’s precursor, beta carotene, neutralizes free radicals that cause illness and disease.  Lycopene acts synergistically with other phytonutrients offering a protective effect against coronary heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes, cancers (prostate, breast, endometrial, colorectal, lung and pancreatic), and inflammatory conditions.  Tomato’s fiber helps control blood sugar levels and prevent against insulin resistance and type II diabetes.  Lycopene is best absorbed into the body with fats like olive oil, nuts, avocados and the like.  Cooking tomatoes increases their lycopene content.  Eating raw is ok, as long as you are eating a varied diet of other lycopene containing foods.  Other lycopene-rich foods include: apricots, almonds, grapefruit, guava, papaya and watermelon.  Research suggests regular consumption of both green tea and foods rich in lycopene provides a double whammy protective effect, stronger than the protection by consuming either by themselves.  Consuming both may greatly reduce a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Jian L, Lee AH, et al.)


2 pounds assorted color heirloom tomatoes

2 small zucchini

1 yellow pepper

1 small cucumber

1 small red onion

about a handful of torn or cubed, stale whole-grain, rustic bread

4 ounces fresh burrata or fresh mozzarella

2 handfuls fresh basil leaves

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for croutons

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 splash of balsamic vinegar

1/2 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper

  • Lightly toss bread in olive oil.  Place on sheet tray and toast until golden. Remove and set aside.
  • Roast whole peppers over an open flame, grill or stove top until blackened and soft.  Cool, peel, slice into chunks and set aside.  (Wrap in a large tea towel or place into a brown bag for 20-30 minutes to cool and then peel – it’s easier..)
  • Slice zucchini and onions into chunks as well, keeping separate because they have different cooking times. Toss gently in olive oil, salt and pepper and grill or roast in a 400 degree oven on a sheet tray.  Set aside to cool.
  • Slice tomatoes and cucumbers into medium-sized chunks.  You’ll be using these raw.  Place into medium-sized bowl.
  • Make a vinaigrette from remaining olive oil,vinegars, and garlic.
  • Cut cheese into chunks, the same size as the bread.
  • Tear basil into pieces rather than slicing for a more rustic look.

To assemble:

Place all vegetables in a medium-sized bowl.  Add croutons, vinaigrette and seasonings, mixing very gently.  Add basil and burrata if using.  Toss briefly.  You may also want to toss and let it sit awhile so that the bread can really soak in the vinaigrette.

If you can’t eat cheese or bread, don’t worry!  I make this all the time with toasted pine nuts and no cheese at all, as I like to keep my cheese consumption very low to minimal.  I also add in grilled corn and substitute cilantro for the basil for a south west flair.  Serve with some grilled halibut, salmon or a tempeh steak.  You can’t go wrong!

Cat Dillon

This blog is my journal, where I share everything wellness. From tips on healthy lifestyle to creating as much deliciousness in your life as possible.

Cat Dillon is the Cat in Caterpillar Nutrition and Wellness.

Caterpillar Nutrition and Wellness is a unique combo of nutrition, fitness and cooking coaching all in one pretty package. Read more about Caterpillar Nutrition and Wellness.

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