It’s been hot this summer. Really, really hot.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, land of perfect summer weather where it’s neither too cool, nor too warm (though Portland has been having it’s own fair share of hot days this year). The rain takes a break for three spectacular months, leaving the rivers, mountains, and oceans as our playground to explore and delight.
The temperatures in Croatia have remained at a steady 90+ degrees for several weeks, with the evening cooling to a brisk 78. We can’t sleep, and and to make it worse, we have to sleep with the tent fully erected, thanks to the invasive mosquitoes that buzz our ears all night long. We awake early to take advantage of the cooler early morning temperatures that last for all of two hours. Sora pants all day in her trailer and we refill our Klean Kanteen water bottles at least twice each day. Thank God they’re insulated.
I can tolerate dry hot weather fairly well, but add humidity to the mix and I become a miserable tyrant. I hate feeling sticky and sweaty and dirty all the time. I feel especially so after cycling for five hours per day on dusty roads. It’s just gross.
And Dave is even worse when it comes to the heat. His “too hot level” starts at my “this is perfect” meter.
The very last thing I want to do at the end of a hot day of riding is turn on our camp stove. This means I’ve been making a ton of hearty salads to fill our bellies at the end of a long day. And my go to lately has been this summer panzanella salad.
I was adamant about not cycling in Croatia in August. So of course, that’s right about when we arrived. To my delight, we entered in the Istrian Peninsula, a magnificent region practically spilling over with homemade wine, olive oil, proper wood fired pizza, good crusty bread, and the Adriatic Sea where we can cool our melting bodies.
Panzanella is one of my favorite summertime salads. It’s quick, simple, and delicious. While I can’t get the bread quite as crispy as I can in an o
ven, leaving the bread to stale for a day or two works just fine. Or, if you’re feeling like you want a better toast, feel free to fire up your oven and toast the bread on the stovetop after tossing with olive oil and salt. We purchase bread every day from the bakeries we pass along the way, and I don’t mind toting around an extra loaf if it means this salad is in our future.
With just 20 minutes of veggie chopping time, this salad comes together easily. I’ve made this salad at least half a dozen times during our journey so far.
Before we get into the recipe, I’ll leave you with some tips for making this summer panzanella salad:
- We don’t really have a big bowl for salads, so I just use our MSR pot. It’s not the greatest salad bowl, but it’s what I’ve got. **Update: I’ve since discovered that a Sea to Summit kitchen sink works great as a salad bowl!
- Usually, while camping, I just drain beans and omit the rinsing. If I have running water nearby, I’ll do my best to rinse the juice off.
- I always leave the tomatoes last because their juices make a mess of my cutting board and whatever surface I’m using. I much prefer to only have to wash my prep area once.
When the temperatures outside are soaring and the last thing you want to do is turn on a hot stove or oven, try this easy vegan summer panzanella salad. Thick crusty two-day-old bread absorbs the olive oil and spices and the fresh vegetables come together in a breeze for this filling meal.
- Two cups of a day-old loaf of crusty bread cut into one-inch cubes
- Three cloves of garlic minced
- One small red onion halved and sliced lengthwise
- Juice from two lemons
- One small cucumber chopped into half-inch pieces
- Bunch of parsley chopped
- Two tomatoes chopped
- One 14oz can of white beans any kind will do, drained
- 1/4 cup of olive oil or so
- Salt and pepper to taste
Slice the bread into one-inch cubes, and set aside.
Slice the red onion and mince the garlic. Place into a bowl and squeeze the lemon juice over the top (I just use one of the bowls that we'll eat out of later). The acid from the lemon juice helps cut the harsh flavors of raw onion and garlic. Set aside.
Chop the cucumber, parsley, and tomatoes and add to your salad bowl.
Drain and rinse (if possible) the beans as best you can and add to the salad bowl.
Add the bread cubes, and onion, garlic, and lemon juice to the salad bowl.
Pour the olive oil over the salad and season with salt and pepper. Stir to distribute contents and enjoy!