A simple and delicious panzanella salad with green lentils, mixed peppers and tomatoes dressed with a light and bright red wine vinaigrette.
Simple is good, yes? Delicious too, yes? This salad of ripe, sweet tomatoes and capsicums with lentils and crispy chunks of ciabatta is both simple and delicious and such a satisfying meal.
Panzanella is a Tuscan salad designed to use up old stale bread. The basic essentials are bread, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. From there you can get creative and work with what you've got.
Capsicums (peppers), red onion, cucumber, fresh herbs, artichokes, olives and capers are all right at home in panzanella, and I've also seen winter versions with roasted root vegetables that look quite delicious.
Capsicums are incredibly cheap in New Zealand right now as we head towards the end of autumn. I bought a bag of 10 in mixed colours last week for only a few dollars and I've really been enjoying the chance to eat them in quantity, either roasted or in salads like this one.
In this recipe I've used lots of capsicum, and added green lentils to make it more substantial and pump up the protein and iron. The result is quite hearty and a great healthy meal on its own, or as a side dish to a larger Italian inspired meal. If dairy is part of your diet, some feta, fresh mozzarella or even halloumi would be pretty great here too.
I sauteed my capsicums to save time, but you can roast them if you prefer. If you do that, you could just add the garlic to the dressing instead. This salad will serve two as a meal, or four as a side dish. It's a perfect Friday night dinner with a nice glass of red.
For the dressing:
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp soft brown sugar or sweetener of your choice
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
For the salad:
- 4 slices stale ciabatta or other crusty bread cubed (approximately 125g)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup green lentils
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 capsicums (peppers, any colour), cut into chunks
- 1 clove garlic crushed or finely grated
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- 2-3 ripe tomatoes cut into chunks
- Large handful of fresh basil leaves (approximately 1 cup)
- 1 tbsp capers roughly chopped
For the dressing:
- Put all dressing ingredients into a small jar or container with a lid. Shake until well combined.
For the salad:
- Preheat oven to 200C (390F).
- Put cubed bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Toss the bread and make sure all pieces are coated in oil. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until firm and crisp, but not overly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Put lentils into a large saucepan and cover with a few inches of cold water. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to simmer and cook lentils for about 20 minutes, or until cooked but still a little firm and holding their shape. Drain and set aside to cool.
- While the lentils are cooking, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a frypan (skillet) and add chopped capsicums. Cook over a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the capsicums have softened and are browned in spots. Add crushed garlic and stir to cook for a further minute.
- Put all salad ingredients except for the basil into a large mixing bowl, pour over the dressing and stir well to combine.
- Toss through the basil leaves just before serving.
- Best eaten within 1-2 hours of being prepared.