Oh, summer. You are an expert wooer. Just the minute I want to hate you, while I’m pushing up another hill on my bicycle, sweat dripping down my neck while I slap a bug off my face, you hit me with a gorgeous sunset over wildflowers, the kind that makes me pull my massive camera out of my backpack, right there on the trail, while I literally gasp out loud.

You know just how to do it. Alongside a sticky night, in sidles a conversation about scraping snow off your cars. Just after a crazy rainstorm, there’s a farmers market packed with produce. On a lazy Saturday afternoon at home, you have me roasting grape tomatoes from a local farm.

slicing tomatoes

There are those who hate you, Summer, those who are immune to all your charms, who—very fairly—cite heat and humidity and insects and all that comes with those things, from big hair to body odor to incessant scratching of ankles, and I listen to them, I do, but look, between you and me: it doesn’t matter.

fresh tomatoes

Because for me, it all comes down to this: There’s nothing better than your fruit and vegetables. Not winter’s celery root. Not spring’s asparagus. I like those things, but man, I love your bounty, the way the stalls overflow with colors and smells on weekend mornings.

roasted tomatoes

I love, for example, that your tomatoes taste so much better than January’s. I love the way they look, sliced, with juice dripping onto a plate. And now I love them roasted, maybe more than any other way, when they are shriveled and darkened, crispy around the edges and shooting hot juice into my mouth when I bite inside.

tray of roasted tomatoes

Roasted tomatoes are good by themselves, good in omelettes, good in random panzanella salads whipped up in the afternoon. I made them this weekend, just before stepping outside, and Summer, good timing, OK? I have to hand it to you. Pretty slick offering roasted tomatoes just before a swarm of mosquitoes. Well. Played.

close-up of roasted tomatoes

This panzanella is nothing difficult, just the compilation of what I had on hand. It starts with fresh grape tomatoes, of course, sliced and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper for just under an hour at 350 degrees.

assembling the salad

The tomatoes combine with some greens (I used romaine), thick hunks of mozzarella, chopped basil and diced pieces of thick toasted sourdough bread in a bowl. Tossed with olive oil and balsamic and let to sit a minute, the toasted bread can really soak in the tomato and dressing juices, and maaaaan.

panzanella salad

One big bite of this panzanella is delicious, irresistible, fresh and fragrant. In other words, it’s you, Summer, all you, and that is a very good thing indeed.

Simple Summer Panzanella
This is one of those recipes with a lot of estimations, but the key really is to add more of what you like, less of what you don’t and improvise. My favorite part of this whole salad was the bread cubes, so next time I might do 1.5 or even 2 slices of bread. When they get good and mixed with the salad, they’re crispy yet soft and chewy.

for roasted tomatoes:
Grape tomatoes (I used two containers from the market, enough to fill a baking sheet)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

other ingredients:
1 big slice of crusty bread (like sourdough)
Romaine lettuce, washed
8 ounces high-quality mozzarella, sliced
A couple fresh basil leaves, chopped
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar, for dressing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin by roasting the grape tomatoes and toasting the bread: wash and slice the tomatoes all in half, lay them cut-side up on a baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper; bake for 50 to 60 minutes. In the last 10 to 20 minutes, add a thick piece of bread (I like sourdough) to the oven and get it nice and golden. Chop bread into cubes.

In a big bowl, combine romaine, mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, sourdough cubes and basil with the oil and vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes or so, letting the dressing and tomato juices soak into the bread. Enjoy!

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Jane @ Sweet Basil Kitchen

    What a beautiful description of summer! We are still in a sauna bath here in the Heartland.

  2. tiina

    So very pretty in its simplicity. Plum and cherry tomatoes are so sweet fresh, and especially when you bake them. I snack them all the time. I make panzanella quite often but will try to perfect it still. This recipe is the next one to test. And I can’t help but to crumble some goat cheese on top… Love your photography, as always.

  3. Jacqui

    i love that picture, third from the bottom. the colors! the juices! oh summer, indeed.

  4. Maddie

    Roasting buddies! :) I did the same thing over the weekend, although I used the results for a roasted tomato sauce. (Sorta wintry, I know, but summer heirlooms rock the socks off winter supermarket Romas.)

    And homemade croutons are the best thing ever, hands down. So now I know what I’m making with my CSA share this week!

  5. Anne

    You know I’m a panzanella fan. Hoping for more this weekend.

  6. redmenace

    I’m in your camp. LOVE summer, but didn’t exactly love it when I lived in Chicago. Man! That was HOT! I left a banana in my car for 15 minutes and returned to find it totally black and mushy. SCARY. I do love this salad, however, and I am a HUGE fan of roasting tomatoes! Yum!

  7. Kim

    Here’s an honest-to-goodness cooking question for you: How does one “drizzle” olive oil? Do you put it into a container with a small opening (like, um, an actual olive oil dispenser)? Do you just pour very gently from the bottle (I am not good at this)? Do you have some other sort of magic?

    I always end up dumping way too much on whatever I’m roasting. Or I oil the pan and roll things around in it.

  8. Shannalee

    Jane, “Sauna bath” is a mighty good description around here, too. I will say I’m thankful for air-conditioning, love of summer notwithstanding! : )

    Tiina, Thank you for that sweet comment (and the Tweet this morning!). Now that I’ve realized how easy panzanella is, I think I’ll be making more versions, too. At least as long as summer lasts!

    Jacqui, Thank you! And right? Summer, SUMMER, I love it so.

    Maddie, Ha, roasting buddies!! And a roasted tomato sauce sounds killer. Just the thing to pull out when it IS winter again and we’re all bummed about the blah tomatoes. Smart thinking!

    Anne, Panzanella buddy! I loved seeing your version earlier this week. Great minds think alike!

    RedMenace, Chicago really gets hit from every end, you know? Crazy cold winters, hot hot summers. This place is something. The vision of your banana blackening in the car is scary indeed, and so not at all hard to believe! Enjoy your current climate, my friend!

    Kim, Ha! Well, I can tell you what I do: either (a) just try to carefully drizzle it by barely tipping the bottle and sending it out in a slow stream or (b) putting my fingers over the lid and letting them block the fast flow. That’s all I’ve got! Oiling the pan sounds like a smart option, too. I like that idea.

  9. Tim

    Mmmm… I like roasted tomatoes!

    Great scott you’ve got some great shots in this post!

  10. Vicki

    The wide range of weather is one of the reasons I love living in Chicago. I especially love those days like one we had in June when it was warm & sunny at lunch, severe pitch black storms later in the afternoon, and then cooler & sunny that evening. Panzanella is actually on my to do cooking list. :)

  11. Shannalee

    Tim, Great Scott! Well thank you!

    Vicki, I like that positive outlook, and I’m glad you shared it. Diversity is a good quality Chicago has, you’re right, you’re right. Please help me remember that this winter, OK?

  12. Dana

    That’s funny, I’ve always just used raw tomatoes in panzanella. Roasted would amp it up a lot, I would think.
    I like to throw olives in mine too!

  13. Angela@spinachtiger

    I was just thinking of making panznaella. This is one is so bright and I’m sure delicious.

  14. Niki

    The best part about roasted tomatoes is the hot juice that squirts out when you bite into them. I love me some tomatoes, but hot and toasty, is the best.
    But I think I’ve already established I love all veggies roasted. Mmmm…..

  15. heather @ chiknpastry

    totally agree with ya here. there are certainly days that the heat has driven me bonkers, but then i remember how lame last summer was, and how cold the winters are. it’s all about perspective. and you’re right – you just can’t beat the produce! those tomatoes look excellent!

  16. Shannalee

    Dana, Amp it up is exactly the right way to say it. Such a big difference, I can’t even tell you.

    Angela, Well, you should! It’s just so summer. I love it.

    Niki, YES! Hot and toasty with juices squirting when you bite in – mmmmm!

    Heather, “It’s all about perspective” – as so many things are!

  17. Katy

    Shanna, I love reading your blog & I’m surprised that I’ve never left a comment here. I can’t think of a vegetable that I don’t love roasted. Someone just brought me fresh-from-the-garden grape tomatoes tonight & I think I decided what I’ll do with them =)
    -Katy Hornbeck

  18. jessiev

    i, too, love reading this – because you’re so honest and true. and, the recipes are awesome!

  19. Shannalee

    Katy! So nice to hear from you! We’ve come a long way from pecan tarts at Country Kitchen, right? (Although, let’s be honest, that doesn’t sound half bad). Hope this weekend finds you roasting those fresh tomatoes and loving them!

    JessieV, Well, thank you for that lovely compliment!

  20. Rosemary@Sprigs of Rosemary

    I just wrote a post about panzanella myself! I like your version!

  21. Shannalee

    Rosemary, Three cheers for impromptu panzanellas! And for summer!

  22. Chrissy

    You rock my world. One more way to eat tomatoes – food of the gods.

  23. molly

    Sometimes I wonder, usually when I’m scratching both ankles AND elbows, but you know, I’m coming around, and I’d give Summer and her produce the thumbs up in the end, also.

    Lovely shots.

  24. Shannalee

    Chrissy, Ha! Glad to hear it!

    Molly, I know, I know. The bugs are really too much! Thankfully summer makes up for it with all the other things.

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