Last weekend, I drove Mom up to Dayton to introduce her to the joys and pleasures of shopping at Dorothy Lane Market. Then, we had an equally pleasurable lunch at Meadowlark Restaurant nearby. I utterly swooned over Meadowlark’s summer tomato panzanella salad, a gorgeous platter of vibrant vegetables, crusty artisan bread, fresh herbs and hunks of Parmesan. It was perfection. And I decided I’d try to replicate it at home. I think I’ve gotten close.
This Heirloom Bean and Tomato Panzanella Salad recipe starts and ends with the very best, ripest, most perfect summer produce. Like the Meadowlark version, it includes beans; in this case, I cooked up a batch of Rancho Gordo Christmas Lima Beans and tossed them into the bowl. (You could certainly use good quality canned cannelini beans if you don’t feel like cooking dried beans.) Finally, it finishes with a versatile Garlicky Parmesan Vinaigrette that will become a regular player in my homemade salad dressing repertoire.
The recipe below is more a guide; adjust the amounts based on how many folks you’re feeding, and whether you’re enjoying this Heirloom Bean and Tomato Panzanella Salad as a main course for lunch or a side dish with dinner. Use any herbs you have in your garden. Add as much dressing as you like.
However you do it, make this. Now. While summer tomatoes are still widely available.
P.S.: If you love Dorothy Lane Market as I do, plan to join me at the DLM Culinary Center on Wednesday, October 12, for my Fall Harvest Supper class!
heirloom tomato and bean panzanella salad recipe
First, cook your beans: Soak them overnight, or not. If your dried beans are pretty fresh, they'll cook fairly quickly, so soaking isn't imperative. Rinse the beans and pick out any debris. Place them in a large saucepan and cover with an inch of water. Add aromatics; I like cooking beans with Colonel De's Kentucky Bean seasoning, which contains dried onion, bell pepper, celery, carrot and herbs, using 1 tablespoon of seasoning per 1/2 pound of dried beans. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender but still toothy. For the Rancho Gordo Christmas Lima Beans pictured, that was about 70 minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature.
Then, whisk together your Garlicky Parmesan Vinaigrette: Use a garlic press to press 1 clove garlic into a lidded pint jar. In a small saucepan, heat 6 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Pour warm oil over garlic; let cool. Add 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan and salt and pepper. Cover and shake.
Meanwhile, prep your vegetables: Core and wedge heirloom tomatoes, preferably different varieties/colors. Halve cherry tomatoes. Cut a red bell pepper into big chunks. Toss in a large bowl with a big pinch of salt and let sit 30 minutes.
Make your croutons: Tear thick slices of good quality bread into big chunks (you'll want a generous half-cup of bread per serving. Toss on a rimmed baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and a big pinch of herb-seasoned salt. Bake at 375° for 15–20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
Finally, make the salad: About 10 minutes before serving, add a bit of Garlicky Parmesan Vinaigrette to the vegetables. Add croutons and toss gently to combine. Let the juices and dressing blend flavors and soften the croutons slightly. Add big chunks of Parmesan to the bowl. Finish with whole leaves of fresh herbs like basil, mint and parsley, and snipped chives. Season with coarse sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.