Purists might have a hard time calling this panzanella, but I’ve never been very pure. (Extra virgin at one time, but never pure.) Whatever you want to call it, it’s a fantastic way to enjoy these last few weeks of summer by hanging out in the back yard, listening to the cicadas sing their deathsong, and grilling up some serious vegetarian fare. Preheat the grill well if you want those gorgeous grill marks, and don’t forget to throw the ball for the dog a few times. No, that’s not a metaphor. No dogs? Fix that!
2 green bell peppers, quartered, seeded, & pithed (about 1 pound)
2 small vidalia onions, quartered & peeled (but root end intact; about 1/2 pound)
1 large fennel bulb, quartered & cored (about 1/2 pound)
1 small yellow crookneck squash, halved lengthwise (about 1/2 pound)
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 loaf stale French or Italian bread, sliced 1/2 inch (about 1/2 pound)
2-3 tomatoes, halved along the equator (about 1-1/2 pounds)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons nonpareil capers
1 large handful fresh basil leaves
4 ounces smoked salmon, roughly chopped
Combine peppers, onions, fennel, & squashes in large bowl; drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and rub into vegetables until all are coated. Paint both sides of bread slices and uncut sides of tomatoes with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Grill vegetables over high heat until browned but not limp (grill tomatoes with cut side up only until barely softened on uncut sides; remove them first), and grill bread until toasted on each side, but still soft at center. Remove all from grill and allow to cool.
Chop bread into 1-inch cubes and add to large bowl. Roughly chop vegetables and add to bread, in this order: tomatoes, peppers, fennel, onions, & squashes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil & balsamic vinegar and toss. Add garlic, capers, & basil leaves and toss. Allow to sit for 30 minutes or so, tossing occasionally. Just before serving, add salmon and toss. Taste for salt, grind on a little black pepper and serve.