Indian Summer Panzanella


Tomatoes for Panzanella

Summer’s Bounty

Indian Summer Panzanella Salad

“Tom got up and went outside. He looked at the summer stars, at blue Venus and red Mars.”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck


Often when we eat at a restaurant I am inspired to recreate a special dish from our dining experience. My recipe may only resemble the fantastic food we enjoyed at the restaurant but that doesn’t quell my food memories or the drive to be inspired by professionals. Or the final outcome of creating a great new recipe from the inspiration. This panzanella recipe is one such inspiration from Chef Brendan Jones of Lokal in Carmel Valley. Voluptuous with the over abundance of late summer in California this panzanella shouts with vivid color and sumptuous flavor. It’s just the the right mix of acid, sweet and crunch. This panzanella salad is Indian Summer on a plate. The salad ingredients of watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, basil and toasted bread are similar to the Panzanella served at Lokal. I only wish I had the recipes for the Chef’s dressing and foam that graced my spectacular salad. If you visit the Carmel area Lokal would be a phenomenal dining experience. All offerings are fresh, seasonal and locally sourced.

Panzanella Ingredients


Use the freshest produce possible to make this salad. Crunchy lemon cucumbers are a must. The original salad had both traditional Genovese basil and a spicy purple basil. If you can find both the medley of spice is incredible. My version of this panzanella has a light dressing to let all the bright flavors shine. The pop of crushed pink peppercorns pairs with the fresh basil for a burst of spicy contrast to the sweet end of summer produce. This is one recipe I urge you to make now before the sultry Indian Summer has vanished into crisp autumn. I scaled the recipe to make 4 individual salads but one large salad would be stunning.

Fresh Ingredients for Panzanella

2T rice wine vinegar
1T olive oil
1T grape seed oil
1t agave nectar or honey
1/4t salt
12 small slices sourdough bread
3T olive oil
8 slices seedless red watermelon
4C cut or sliced mixed heirloom tomatoes
3 lemon cucumbers, cut in eights
4 sprigs basil
1/2t crushed red peppercorns or ground black pepper
  1. In a small bowl add the rice wine vinegar and while whisking; slowly pour in one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of grape seed oil to emulsify. Whisk in the agave and salt.
  2. Heat a griddle or skillet to medium high heat. Brush both sides of the sliced sourdough with olive oil. Grill the bread on both sides until the edges of the bread are dry and crisp and have turned golden brown.
  3. Arrange two slices of watermelon and three slices of bread on each plate. Divide the tomatoes and lemon cucumbers evenly among the four plates. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and garnish with basil leaves and pepper.

Pink Peppercorn Dressing

Panzanella Salad

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43 Responses to Indian Summer Panzanella

  1. Gorgeous panzanella, the perfect use for late summer bounty. I adore the colors and textures!

  2. Fantastic salad – panzanella is one of my favorites. You’ve captured this golden season on a plate.

  3. What a beautiful plate of produce, Deb! Wonderful photography as well.

  4. Jacquee says:

    Delectable – the recipe and your photos!! Now I just need to find a watermelon…

  5. The photography is as beautiful as this panzanella salad!!! What a delightful dish, Deb!

  6. Patty says:

    Oh your salad is a must make Deb! I love the watermelon twist and my favorites..lemon cucumbers -your photos are just beautiful 😉
    Now I’m missing Summer 😉

  7. Cathy says:

    I bet this tastes wonderful – it looks amazing. Gorgeous photos!

  8. Carol Sacks says:

    So pretty and fresh, Deb. And, your photos are beautiful!

  9. Wizzy says:

    Love the look of those lemon cucumbers I have never seen those before

    • Deb says:

      Thank you Wizzy! I never find lemon cucumbers at the grocery store, only at the farmers’ market of farm stand.

  10. Valentina says:

    What a breathtaking dish. The top image is the most beautiful bowl of tomatoes I’ve ever seen. Love.

  11. How lushly Californian does this look! I can’t see the restaurant version looking any more enticing. I shall check out what we still have left of summer in our food market this week and try and make this one last fresh tomato salad. Gorgeous!

  12. Beautiful colors and flavors here! A friend of mine once grew lemon cucumbers and gave some to me. I loved them and haven’t had them since. I may need to seek out some seeds for next year.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the gracious comment Lisa! The lemon cucumbers bring the “crunch” to the salad and are a magnificent addition to the panzanella.

  13. Such a beautiful combination of colors and flavors. Love your addition of pink peppercorns. Something I have yet to try. So many of us are rushing off into Fall with all kinds of pumpkin and squash recipes. You’ve inspired me to return to summer, if just briefly, to enjoy this lovely salad before the heirloom tomatoes and watermelon have disappeared until next year’s bounty.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the lovely comment Mary! I can feel fall in the cooler nights and the light is changing. But there is still so much summer produce to enjoy, especially tomatoes and melons!

  14. @yumivore says:

    stunning dish!

  15. Claire says:

    A timely tempting dish ! I have tomatoes ripening in a bowl and sourdough bread to hand. I know what tomorrows supper will be now! And what a magical quote, poetic to the full.

  16. oooh panzanella – one of my favorites! That first photo is absolutely gorgeous!

  17. Wow, what a colorful, bright-colored salad! Love that you added a watermelon – an interesting addition that make this salad even more colorful and refreshing!

  18. shannon says:

    Deb, your photos are STUNNING in this post: just beautiful. Add to that my intense love for all things panzanella, and i’m yours. it’s one of the few things which makes me sad that summer is pretty much gone. Love this.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for the gracious comment Shannon! Fall is on the way, but we still have ripening tomatoes that are perfect for panzanella 🙂

  19. One of the most unique ways of using watermelon I’ve seen lately Deb! I saw the salad with feta everywhere this past year, but I actually never made, which is weird since I am nuts about watermelon. And also about panzanella. How awesome that you combined the two! And lemon cucumbers?? Amazing produce.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for commenting Paula! I’m not crazy about the watermelon feta combination, however I am very fond of Chef Jones’ Panzanella with watermelon!

  20. That open door in the photo with the cloche, beckons to me. I LOVE this salad. The vibrant colours, the mix of flavours and herb. Looks so inviting

  21. Pretty darn perfect salad! I love the colors and can just taste the flavors too!

  22. Pingback: Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Orange Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting | East of Eden Cooking

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