Telling you I like panzanella is a little like telling you my teenage self liked pizza. I don’t like panzanella; I want to eat it every day. In the same way I grew up buying Tombstone and Jack’s and, let’s be honest, eating any pizza anyone would give me, now I want panzanella, and I want it all the time. Really, the jump from pizza addict to panzanella evangelist isn’t a crazy one. The most traditional versions of panzanella are practically pizza, deconstructed: bread, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese. But lately, my panzanella love has pushed me to new combinations of ingredients, ones far stretched from anything resembling a pizza slice. And while sure, I might be biased, I have to say, I think a radish panzanella like this one could make a zealot out of anyone.
This salad starts with radishes—and saying radishes are beautiful is kind of like saying I like panzanella. Every time I bring home a bunch of these bright, red roots, I feel a little like a proud parent. I want to take their picture or paint them on a print. From those firm root bodies with their knockout color to those wispy, leafy stems that taste a little like pepper and a lot like grass, radishes are something else. Yet as show-stopping as they look at the market, in kitchens, radishes tend to take supporting roles: sliced thinly into leafy salads or turned quickly into bright taco slaws.
Radishes are, in other words, that talented friend who keeps interviewing and being passed over for the more obvious choices like kale Ivy League grads. Radishes are the flattering outfits forgotten in the closet until you clean things out and consider them anew. Radishes are, I’m not kidding, pretty similar to most of us—gifted in specific ways that not everyone sees and maybe not everyone is supposed to see, and so are often labeled and placed under assumptions and ignored.
So when a person comes along who sees us, who stops long enough to pause and consider and really see, all kinds of joy erupts. When someone gives the gift of listening long enough to understand, asking questions thoughtfully and with interest, most of us blossom in response. When I think about this, it makes me want to hold my tongue longer and listen better. It makes me want to thank Tim for doing this for me better than anyone else I’ve ever known.
Also, it moves me further toward the radish, the humble root vegetable for which other cultures have declared holidays and designed sculptures to honor.
So behold, in this panzanella, proof of radish charm:
Thin, white, beautifully red-bordered rounds.
A crunch as strong as any water chestnut.
Diced greens that add color contrast and a slight pepper taste.
Combined with other players like tomato, onion, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, and chunks of toasted bread, the radish becomes more than a thing you’re trying to notice.
It becomes one you don’t want to miss.
Makes four cups; serves three to four
For the bread in this salad, we chose a hearty loaf from local bakery Twin Forks Farm, which uses ancient grains and a two- to three-day ferment. But really any hearty, crusty bread would do. And feel free to make this salad ahead of serving time, by the way—the longer it sits, the more the flavors meld.
10 radishes, sliced thinly
1/2 cup radish greens, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 cup of diced onion
2 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice (from about one lemon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large pieces crusty bread, toasted and cubed
In a medium to large bowl, combine all ingredients and toss well. Taste, and adjust oil, lemon juice or salt as you like.