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Peachy Greek Panzanella

Updated: Mar 22

Summer salads are light and fresh and should cool you down. The dressings are almost non-existent and should add flavour but not the richness of creamy, heavy dressing. This is a salad that is perfect for the hot summer months.

Panzanella is an Italian salad from the Tuscan region with bread, tomatoes, and onions at its core. This is a salad that is usually so easy to make but also so easy to mess up. The magic of a great Panzanella is how the bread is added to the salad. Many chefs add the bread to the salad and mix it in; this causes the bread to be soggy and mushy. For this and any other Panzanella recipe, the bread is drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and roasted in the oven until one side is toasted and crisp. The bread is added last to the salad on the tip or side where it stays crisp, adding that texture to the salad.

I was fortunate to get some lovey Ooty peaches from The Cullinarium Gardens. They were perfect, ripe, sweet-tart, drippingly juicy, and delicious!

This is a lovely salad with a variety of flavours. The peaches are sweet-tart and, when in season, lovely. The tomatoes add a different sweetness and colour to the salad. The bread is crisp, and the salad is brought together in a light dressing with vinegar and herbs. This salad is the definition of light and so flavourful. The salad is about great ingredients whose flavours shine in this dish.

Maria Elia is one of my favourite chefs and cookbook authors. I have all her books; this one stands out for authentic and modern Greek flavours, like this dish. This book results from her experimentation at her father's tavern in the Troodos mountains of Cyprus. It combines traditional recipes from visiting villages and being allowed into the local kitchens. However, the other recipes are her interpretations of traditional Greek dishes with a modern twist. The book is packed with folklore and knowledge, and every recipe I have cooked from here is outstanding. This is probably my favourite Greek cookbook on my shelf.

For more recipes from this amazing cookbook, click here.

2-3 shallots, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons Cabernet sauvignon wine vinegar or red wine vinegar

6-8 ripe peaches, seeded and halved

Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

1/2 loaf sesame bread, or sourdough bread

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 package of red cherry tomatoes, halved

1 package of yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

A handful of fresh basil, roughly torn

For the dressing:

2 teaspoons of dried oregano or dried thyme leaves or a mix

A pinch of sugar

Salt, to taste

3 tablespoons Cabernet sauvignon wine vinegar or red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing and let it sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to broil mode or heat a large frying pan on your highest flame.

Toss the peaches in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Layer the peaches on a lined baking sheet and broil till charred, about 4-5 minutes. Or fry them till charred, for about 3 minutes in the pan. You want this to be quick so the peaches are still crisp and yet charred. Set aside.

Cut the bread into small cubes. Toss with extra virgin olive oil and garlic, toast/grill until charred in spots, remove, and set aside.

Add the sliced shallots to the vinegar and marinate for 30 minutes.

Assemble the salad right before serving. Toss the grilled peaches, tomatoes, and basil and drain from the vinegar shallots together. Layer them into a bowl and toss them with the toasted bread. Drizzle some of the dressing on top and serve immediately.

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