Fig panzanella with ricotta and basil

By Philip Lago and Mystique Mattai
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Panzanella is the beloved bread salad of Tuscany, capturing the freshness of summer in every bite. Traditionally tossed with ripe tomatoes, onions and vinaigrette, it’s a simple salad that uses up day-old bread (the crustier, the better). Swapping tomatoes for figs, our panzanella has a healthy sprinkling of ricotta cheese, arugula, red onions and basil and is topped with a honey, Dijon and white wine vinaigrette. This summer staple is ideal for packing in jars for a picnic or serving in a large bowl as a backyard salad.

SERVES
4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf rustic Italian bread, torn in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 6 figs, quartered lengthwise (see tip)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Directions

  1. TOAST THE BREAD: In a large bowl, toss the bread with two to three tablespoons of oil until lightly coated. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the bread. Toast for 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp on all sides. Transfer the croutons to a large bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. MAKE THE DRESSING: In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup of oil with the vinegar, honey and mustard. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. MARINATE THE BREAD: Pour all but two tablespoons of the dressing over the toasted bread, add the onions and toss until the bread is well coated in the dressing. Set aside to marinate for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Just before serving, gently toss the arugula and basil with the remaining dressing in a large salad bowl. Add the marinated bread and onions and the figs to the greens and gently toss with your hands until evenly distributed. Sprinkle with ricotta cheese and serve immediately.
  5. ELEVATE: Alternatively, if eating outdoors on a picnic or in the park, layer the salad in a mason jar for an easy pack-and-go salad that just requires you to shake and pour before serving.
  6. TIP: Check the figs for ripeness by gently pressing on them. They should be slightly soft but not mushy, with a clean and smooth skin

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