This panzanella recipe is inspired by a meal that I had recently at Francesca's Forno in Wicker Park. I was having dinner there with my friend Alexis and we split this grilled corn and bread salad before our pasta entrees arrived. I could have just kept eating this salad for my whole meal-- it was that good. The taste of the charred corn and bread against the sweetness of the tomatoes and basil tossed in a light vinaigrette was a totally balanced flavor combination. The flavors were light and bright. It just tasted like summer.
I went home that night and jotted down what I thought the salad components might be and decided that I would try to recreate it the following week for dinner. The result was a relatively easy summer side dish that both Alex and I really enjoyed. I was skeptical about how the leftovers would keep (worried about the soggy bread factor), but I packed it up and took it to work for lunch the next day and it held up really well.
- 2 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced in half widthwise
- 3 ears corn, shucked
- 4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. honey
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Grated Pecorino Romano, for serving
Preheat the grill to medium heat. Drizzle the corn lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the corn for about 12 minutes until grill marks appear, turning to make sure they grill evenly. Remove from heat and allow them to cool enough to handle. Cut the corn off the cobs and discard cobs.
Meanwhile, drizzle the cut sides of the ciabatta lightly with olive oil. Place bread cut side down on the grill until slightly charred and grill marks appears, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the bread to cool enough to handle. Once cooled, rub the grilled side of each piece of bread with the cut garlic cloves. Once totally cooled, cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes.
Add corn and bread cubes to a large bowl along with tomatoes, onions, and basil.
In a small bowl or cruet, whisk together vinegar and next 4 ingredients through honey. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour half of the dressing over the corn and bread mixture and stir gently to combine. Continue to stir in more dressing to taste. You may not need to use all of it, depending on how much the bread absorbs. The bread should be moist and soft, but not soaked and mushy.
Serve cold or at room temperature with grated Pecorino Romano.