summer crush: panzanella from The Market Vegan and giveaway

Today I’m happy to host the multitalented Laura Gesin as she shares a recipe from her new cookbook, The Market Vegan. I made this recipe myself and shot the photos of the finished product, although I did it with Ontario tomatoes instead of the famed New Jersey ones that Laura has at her disposal. I swear, even though it means turning on your oven for a few minutes, it’s worth it. I’m giving away a copy of The Market Vegan to a lucky commenter, too. Take it away, Laura:

It’s summer, a time when home cooks want to enjoy the outdoors with our families and friends while taking advantage of the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of year. I’ve been vegan for over three years and started down the path one day in May. If you’ve been considering a vegetarian or vegan diet, this is the best time of year to try a light and healthy meatless menu!

When asked by those considering a vegan lifestyle, I say start simple. One of the biggest issues with preparing vegan meals can be the price of substitutes for animal based products. You don’t need them! With very few exceptions—Trader Joe’s soy chorizo being one, and it costs all of $1.99—you can eat balanced meals with ingredients primarily purchased at the supermarket with a little help in the pantry from your local health food store or the internet.

I started with vegan dishes based on recipes I’d made for years. My daughter became a vegetarian when she was 9 so I had some experience with recipes without meat, but removing dairy and cheese was a real challenge! One of my first successes was vegan pizza. Here at the Jersey Shore, we love our pizza, so when I finally found a way to not only make it at home but without fake cheese, I was thrilled! Eggplant provides a good, moist base, and you can then build your pizza with whatever vegetable options you have on hand. (Note from Kim: I tested the vegan pizza for the cookbook and it’s another recipe I loved.)

After that recipe revamp came Compassionate Quiche, Peanut Butter Pie, and a tofu scramble that’s even better than scrambled eggs. Be patient, be inventive, but don’t give up! Adding vegan recipes to your repertoire is easier than you think, and there are lots of resources available to you. This month, why not try my Vegan Panzanella with either olive oil and lemon or Rum Herb Dressing? Make it ahead of time so you can get out of the kitchen and enjoy that backyard BBQ!

A note from Kim: In case you had the same soaked-bread worries I had when I saw this recipe, fear not! The tomatoes give off a small amount of juice, and combined with Laura’s recommended lemon juice and oil, there’s JUST the right amount of dressing on the salad. The bread is incredible. Because it’s cut into large pieces, only the outside of it gets wet—not soggy in the least!

Vegan Panzanella

You could write an entire book on the variations to the basic Panzanella recipe, but every one includes bread past its prime. If you don’t have any in the house, check out your local market or bakery for discounted loaves. They will work much better than fresh bread in this recipe!

  • 1 bag arugula leaves or 4 large bunches cleaned, stems removed
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes cut in half or 6 plum tomatoes chopped into 1” pieces
  • 1 medium loaf of Italian or French bread cut into bite sized cubes (I’ve even used sandwich rolls in a pinch)
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic minced
  • juice of one lemon
  • tablespoon of lemon zest
  • salt and pepper

This side-view closeup is because I care about you. Also because I like my little multicolored tomato assortment. Also because it’s been an hour since I ate this salad and I kind of miss it.Preheat oven to 400°. Place bread on a baking sheet and tomatoes in a baking dish (great use of retro Corningware if you have it). Roast 10 minutes, check bread and tomatoes. Bread may toast faster than the tomatoes roast; remove bread when light brown and tomatoes when hot and tender but not mushy. Remove from oven and let cool until room temperature.  

Place arugula in a bowl. Toss with olive oil and garlic, then lemon juice and zest. Add bread and tomatoes then salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperatures –- makes a great hearty salad on a hot summer day!



Variation: Substitute spinach and/or a variety of lettuce, add roasted red and yellow peppers, and top with the dressing below.

Rum Herb Dressing

  • ¼ cup dark rum*
  • ¼ cup white wine*
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Heat rum in small saucepan (don’t boil). Remove from heat and set on fire (this is fun but be careful). Let rum cool to room temperature then whisk with the rest of the ingredients. Chill for 1 hour before adding to Panzanella.

*Check barnivore.com to ensure that your alcohol is also vegan.

Laura Gesin is a vegan blogger and podcaster with a day job as a technology teacher at a high school in New Jersey. Earlier this month, Laura published a vegan digital cookbook entitled The Market Vegan which includes many family favorites updated for a healthier vegan lifestyle. More information about vegan cooking and the cookbook can be found at http://www.voxpopnj.com, and you can follow her on Twitter at @themarketvegan.

Kim again: Thank you, Laura! Now, about that giveaway…. Just comment below with your favorite vegan food for a chance to win a copy of The Market Vegan (either pdf or epub versions are available). Anything animal-product free counts—even if it’s something you don’t have to cook at all, like a bowl of berries. The contest will close on Wednesday, July 11, at 11:59pm EDT.