Although panzanella, the bread salad that is popular in Italy, is often served as a side dish to accompany grilled meat or fish, this version, which gets a nontraditional spin and a heartier texture with the addition of grilled eggplant and toasty charred corn, is hearty enough to make a light supper. Served with a crisp glass of white wine and followed by some fruit or a small selection of cheeses, what could make a better vegetarian dinner on a sweltering summer night?
Grilled Eggplant, Corn and Bread Salad with Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette
2 large, ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup (1/2 oz./15 g) fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
8 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for grill
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
2 large eggplants, cut crosswise into slices 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick
1 loaf day-old country-style bread, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes
To make the vinaigrette, bring a saucepan two-thirds full of water to boil over high heat. Have ready a bowl of ice water. Using a paring knife, score an X on the bottom of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes into boiling water and heat until the skins loosen, 15 to 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to the ice water and let stand until cool. Remove the tomatoes from the ice water and pull off the skins. Core the tomatoes and halve them crosswise. Gently squeeze each half to ease out the seeds, then coarsely chop the tomato flesh.
Transfer the chopped tomatoes to a food processor or blender. Add about one-third of the basil, the vinegar, 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, the garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt and several grindings of pepper. Process until a chunky vinaigrette forms. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Set aside.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. Brush the corn on all sides with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with the remaining 6 Tbs. olive oil and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Grill the eggplant slices, turning once, until softened and grill-marked on both sides, about 12 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board. Grill the corn, turning frequently, until charred in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to the cutting board. Cut the eggplant slices into 3/4-inch (2-cm) pieces. Using a chef’s knife, cut the ears of corn in half crosswise. Stand each half flat end down on a cutting board and cut the kernels from the cob.
In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, corn, the remaining basil and the bread cubes. Pour in the tomato vinaigrette, toss well and serve. Serves 6 to 8.
Find more vibrant and versatile salads for every season in our
cookbook Salad of the Day, by Georgeanne Brennan.