Village and Panzanella salads are my two favorite European salads. Village salads hands down are one of my favorite things about Greece. We have gone to Greece twice and both times we ate village salads every day. They are so simple yet so delicious. A Village salad is nothing more than tomatoes, bell peppers, red onions, kalmata olives and fresh feta cheese. The salad is then simply dressed with olive oil and vinegar. But it’s the QUALITY of the ingredients that make the salad flavorful.
I find myself craving salads now that the weather is getting warmer out. We eat a lot of big salads for dinner at our house. In general we don’t eat a ton of bread. But every now and again I will make a grilled cheese or a BLT. So when I do I always have bread leftover that will go to waste. Which is PERFECT for a salad!
Nope! I am not making crutons. The bread is perfect for Panzanella salads. Panzanella salads are actually Italian and usually consist of tomatoes and day old bread. So my day old bread paired with the ingredients from a village salad make the perfect European salad mashup! Personally I like to grill my bread to get a nice little char on it. It is not necessary but I love the texture that it gives it. You can throw your bread on the grill, a grill pan or even straight onto the racks in your oven to toast it up.
I can’t stress using quality ingredients in this salad enough! Because the salad is so simple the quality will enhance the flavor. Splurge on a good feta cheese. I like the bricks that are straight from Greece. Yes it costs a few dollars more but I promise it’s worth every penny. Also be sure to use your good olive oil for this salad. Since the dressing is nothing more than vinegar and oil you want a nice flavorful olive oil.
This Village Panzanella salad would be awesome with grilled chicken. But because we eat mostly vegetarian my new favorite protein for salads is toasted chickpeas. You want to rinse, drain and dry out your chickpeas before you toast them. By getting the chickpeas dry it reduces the time for them to cook.
While this Village Panzanella salad isn’t traditional it for sure takes two of my favorites into a delicious hybrid. It makes me ALMOST think I am back in Greece. Ok not even close but at least it’s a healthy meal!
Village Panzanella Salad
- 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- zest of one lemon
- 1 cucumber, sliced in quarters
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 2 bell peppers, cut in large dice
- 1 c kalmata olives, chopped
- 1/2 red onion cut in half, then sliced thin
- 1 brick of feta cheese (look for something imported from Greece if you can) the crumbled feta is fine if you can't find a brick
- 4-5 slices of a few day old bread
- 2/3 c olive oil
- 1/3 c red wine vinegar
- Step 1 After you have drained and rinsed your chickpeas pat off with a towel. Add with 1 tbs olive oil to a pan over medium low to medium heat. Season liberally with salt and pepper and the lemon zest. Cook 10 mins moving around the pan from time to time until they start to dry out and turn golden brown. The key is to let them sit in the pan to brown up, avoid stirring constantly.
- Step 2 In a large salad bowl combine the cucumber, tomato, olives, bell pepper and onion.
- Step 3 Heat up your grill, grill pan or oven for the bread. I like to spread a little butter or olive oil over my bread and then season with a smidge of garlic salt and pepper. Grill a few minutes each side until golden brown. You can also place the bread straight on the rack of a hot oven or even a toaster would work.
- Step 4 Cut bread into large chunks and add bread and chickpeas to the salad.
- Step 5 In a jar with a lid add olive oil and vinegar. Shake to combine or you can whisk together in a bowl.
- Step 6 Drizzle half your dressing over the salad making sure to coat the bread. Give your salad a good toss. Season salad with salt and pepper. This might be enough dressing for you at this point. If not slowly add in more and toss again until you have enough to your liking.
- Step 7 Top salad with the feta cheese.