After a beautiful weekend in London and a gorgeous walk through Regents Park (see photo below), I couldn't help but start to get excited about picnicking this summer.  One of my favorite items on a picnic menu is a Panzanella Salad.  The perfect combination of flavors, this salad is filling and easy to transport.


Preheat oven to 450*F

1 day old hearty Italian, levain or sourdough baguette, torn or cut into bite sized pieces (1-1.5 inch cubes)
2/3 cup olive oil (1/3 for cooking and 1/3 for tossing)
3 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and pepper
2 Tlbs. balsamic vinegar
3 medium heirloom tomatoes, chunky wedges
1 large cucumber, peele and cut into chunky wedges
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin to medium strips
2/3 cup sliced onion
8-10 fresh basil leaves, shredded
1 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed (1 inch)
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives

In a large bowl, toss 1/3 cup olive oil and garlic with the chopped bread.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Place bread pieces on a baking sheet and toast for about 5-10 minutes (until golden).  Allow bread to cool.  In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, mozzarella and kalamata olives.  Fold in the bread (depending on the size of the original bread loaf, you may not want to add all of the bread).  Whisk olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette together, and stir in vinaigrette mixture to the salad.  Add additional salt and pepper if needed.  Let salad sit for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Note: Depending on how long it will be between the time you make your salad and the time you sit down to eat at your picnic, you may want to wait before adding the vinaigrette to the salad.  The solution is easy.  Just pack the salad and vinaigrette in two separate containers, and combine 20-30 minutes before serving.

Some items to pick up before your next picnic...

Bambu Sporks ($10 for 15 pack), PlumParty; Picnic Blanket (£20), Hen and Hammock; Traditional Picnic Set (£49), Robert Opie; Picnic Basket (£49), Toast; Kleen Kanteen Classic ($19.95), Kleen Kanteen; Coleman Stainless-Steel Cooler ($219.95), REI;  Picnic Tote ($388), S. Stein Design; Damask Paper Plated $5.95 for 8 pack), Plates and Napkins
{photos: Julia Ferguson, Stacey Snacks}

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