Change of Pace: Panzanella

The high temperatures that we have in Raleigh keep me indoors more that I would like. The thermometer on my kitchen counter tells me it’s 99 degrees outside as I write this at 4 pm.

Our home is comfortably cool so I could just knuckle down and write my weekly post that is due tomorrow.  However, I am just procrastinating as usual and I can’t think of anything to write about.

I need a change of pace. I love food and, sometimes love cooking, so rather than write about nursing and nursing problems and aging and aging problems and my book, I will post my favorite summer salad recipe, Panzanella.


Panzanella. My Italian grandmother made this salad but I never heard the word Panzanella growing up. Grandma just cut up tomatoes and left-over bread and occasionally served the salad at Sunday family dinners. One course of many.

Panzanella is perfect for hot weather and the best use for tomatoes, which are now plentiful at our farmer’s markets. I like the heirloom German Johnson tomatoes.german johnson tomato

This year, I have a bumper crop of basil in the Earthbox* outside our screened porch. The cucumber and green peppers come from the Earthboxes that my grandson and I planted in his backyard. Every year he chooses what to plant. I am hoping this encourages him to like vegetables but so far it hasn’t. Oh well.

I use a leftover baguette from Yellow Dog bakery. Yellow Dog makes the best baguettes in the area. Get a good quality bread.

yellow dog baguette

For the salad:

1- or 2-day-old crusty baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes, about 5 to 6 cups

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil leaves

3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons Champagne or red wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Let the salad sit for an hour for the flavors to blend.

This salad will be good the next day or two as the ingredients blend together and the taste becomes richer.


*Earthbox is a container gardening system to use when you have limited space and little interest in working a large plot.

By Marianna Crane

After a long career in nursing--I was one of the first certified gerontological nurse practitioners--I am now a writer. My writings center around patients I have had over the years that continue to haunt my memory unless I record their stories. In addition, I write about growing older, confronting ageism, creativity and food. My memoir, "Stories from the Tenth Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers" is available where ever books are sold.


  1. This sounds delicious. I find myself very open to suggestions about dinner – don’t get much help from the men in the house and I run out of ideas. This will fit very well for us. We have a farm a mile or two from my house that puts tomatoes out and a jar to collect money on the honor system. Guess I will be making a trip to that farm today.


    1. Remember to get good quality crusty bread, or if not available, crisp it up for a few minutes in the oven after tossing it in some olive oil. Otherwise the bread gets soggy fast.


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