I’m a big fan of the throw-it-all-in-a-bowl, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style salad. If I’m going to get my veggies in, it should be done in a big way. And not only do I want it to be delicious, but also eye-appealing. The vibrant color palette here is enough to reel you in, and even if you’re not a salad lover (oh, that sounds inappropriate, let me rephrase…) Even if you don’t typically enjoy salads, it’s pretty hard to turn down something with bread in it. Besides, all the vitamins and nutrients you’re getting from what feels like the entire produce section worth of healthy picks totally cancels out this semi-carb fest. Toss in some chewy, salty fresh mozzarella and we’re pretty much in business.
For my version of this Italian favorite, I’ve chosen spicy arugula (isn’t everything just better with arugula?), fragrant basil, crisp cucumbers, my very favorite sweet, juicy Campari tomatoes (I really need to do business with them…), red onion, an assortment of savory olives, fiber-rich chickpeas, fresh mozz, and vibrant orange pepper that I roasted myself. Of course, the star of the show is the bread so to add my own twist I’ve incorporated garlic studded ciabatta. YUM. It just gives that extra element of flavor and umph.
I love the rusticity of this dish. It’s not about precision here or fine knife skills. Not a place for perfection. Something like this totally lends itself to a rough chop, a hand-pulled tear and uneven chunks of softer-than-crouton bread all tossed in my light vinaigrette. I envision eating something like this picnic-style on a gorgeous, 75° day, sprawled out on a quilted blanket with a jug of iced tea…or at sunset surrounded by friends, mason-jar candlelight, feel-good tunes and bottles of red wine. (Hubby and I devoured ours in front of the TV while the pup buried scraps of said garlic studded ciabatta under our pillow, but a girl can dream right?)
It’s such a great soon-to-be summer side and a perfect vegetarian meal. If you want to carnivore it up, add some blackened chicken over top. Happiness for everyone.
1/2 day-old loaf of garlic ciabatta (Toast slightly if using fresh)
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed
2 cups baby arugula (I have seen the toddler kind anywhere…)
About 10 Campari tomatoes, quartered
3 baby cucumbers, quartered
1 orange pepper
1/2 cup assorted olives in brine (preferably pitted)
1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
About 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Preheat your oven to 400°. Cut the top off your pepper, and slice in half.
Scrape out the seeds.
And remove the white part.
Drizzle each side with one teaspoon olive oil.
And season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Bake for about 20 minutes, turning once halfway through.
In the meantime, place arugula in a large bowl.
Fresh mozzarella. (Oh how I love thee…)
Once pepper is cooked and cooled, cut into pieces and throw that in too.
Add bread chunks,
And fresh basil.
Prepare your dressing in a separate bowl with olive oil,
Salt and pepper.
Pour dressing over salad.
Toss to coat well, being sure to get all the good stuff from the bottom of the bowl.
Eat and enjoy picnic style, under the stars…or while watching TV!
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