Jul 30 2013

Endless Variations: Now, With Quinoa!

There are hundreds of varieties of panzanella, the classic Italian tomato and bread salad. Over the past few summers, I’ve assembled a handful of slightly different salads, but I wanted to share this one because it features – what else? – quinoa.

Each summer, I completely forget about the existence of panzanella until the thermometer hovers around 90 degrees and my answer to “what do you want to eat tonight?" switches from a decisive pronouncement to a moan of “I’m hungry but I’m too hot to eat. All I want is watermelon." Well, watermelon wasn’t an option last week, but panzanella definitely was. Panzanella is a leftover dish disguised as a refined salad. Italian peasants and farmers created it as a way to use up their crusty, slightly stale bread.

I’ve eaten mustardy panzanella, briney panzanella, and one-note panzanella. Like most Italian recipes, don’t bother making this dish with bland tomatoes and chewy bread. Because stale bread is the rule of thumb here, recipes tend to soften the bread in two main ways: either by soaking it in water, before squeezing out the bread like a sponge, or by brushing it olive oil and toasting it in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Always an experimenter, Yotam Ottolenghi forgoes the standard “Tuscan” style bread for sourdough. The recipe’s added quinoa, which closely resembles pulsed bread crumbs, acts as a taste and visual unifier: it delivers an extra bit of depth to every forkful.

Quinoa & Sourdough Panzanella

Recipe Source: Plenty

Serves 4


  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, and oil for brushing the bread
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 medium tomatoes or the equivalent in cherry/grape tomatoes
  • 3 small cucumbers or 1 large cucumber, unpeeled
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro (you could substitute 1 1/2 tbs mint here)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves


  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Cook the quinoa in a pot of boiling water. Cook for 9 minutes (or until tender). Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water. Let dry while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  2. Brush the bread with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Put the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, rotating halfway through. You want the bread to be dry and crisp. Remove from the oven, and once cool, break into chunks.
  3. Cut the tomatoes into 3/4 inch pieces (if using cherry, cut them in half) and add to a medium-large bowl. Cut the cucumbers into the same size pieces and put in the same bowl. Add all of the ingredients (including the bread and quinoa) to the bowl and mix until everything is merged. Taste and adjust for salt. Enjoy!