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Panzanella Salad

Italians made up this salad to use up leftover bread and it is brilliant. I feel like any salad made with bread cubes soaked in garlic vinaigrette is going to be my favorite salad. The longer this salad sits together, the better it tastes, which makes it perfect for taking to the beach, to a pool party or to a BBQ at a friends house.

Here I added torn pieces of rotisserie chicken to make this a complete meal.

4 1-inch slices bread, country-style

3 large red bell peppers

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vinegar (I like to use champagne, sherry or white wine vinegar)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil (I like California Olive Ranch evoo)

1 tablespoons capers, drained

4 ounces mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces, or 4 ounces bocconcini

Fresh herbs — snipped chives, basil, or parsley or a mix thereof

Grill and marinade peppers

I prefer to roast the bell pepper over an open flame to give them a dark char all the way around. I turn the gas burner on my stove and set them on top of the grates, rotating them every minute until the entire pepper is charred.

Place all the charred peppers inside a zip top bag and seal. Let this sit on the counter to steam in the bag.

In another zip-top bag add the vinegar, garlic, sugar and 1 tablespoon olive oil and capers.

Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, use a paper towel to wipe the charred skin from the outside and discard. Working on top of a cutting board, slice off the tops and then cut in half. Use a knife to scrape any membrane and seeds from the inside and discard. Next, slice the pepper into 1/2 inch wide strips. Place in the zip-top bag to marinate in the vinaigrette overnight or at least 30 minutes.

Grill bread

I've used frozen garlic bread and a loaf of plain country bread before. Any kind of thick cut bread that you can grill will work. You can baste in olive oil, or brush with butter first. Grill inside on a grill pan or on your outside grill. If you have neither, use your oven.

Once the bread is toasted with grill marks, slice or tear into rustic one-inch cubes.

Combine and enjoy

In a large bowl, dump the zip-top bag with the peppers along with all the marinade. Add the bread and toss gently to moisten the bread. Add the mozzarella, red onion, and fresh herbs. Toss gently one more time, taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper if needed. Serve immediately.

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