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In the Kitchen: Culina's Panzanella Salad

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Culina's Panzanella at dinnertime (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)

Culina's Panzanella at dinnertime (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)
Part of what makes a meal at Culina so lovely is the celebration of the seasons via their specials menu, and, with their Panzanella Salad in particular, the way the ingredients come together before your eyes before you take that first bite.

With summer upon us, we're at the time when tomatoes are ripening to their full, sweet, fleshy glory on the vine. Watermelons are hefty and taut on the outside, but once opened have that perfect, dripping, taste of pure pink summertime. These sweet, colorful bits mesh beautifully with the salt and cream of ricotta, the cool green crisp of cucumber slices, and the mellow heartiness of country bread.

This is Panzanella, a "bread salad" that at Culina is assembled tableside, then divided into bowls for diners to enjoy, as we did at a recent dinner. Chef Victor Casanova has shared his recipe, and there is no better time than summer, when the produce is bountiful, as are the occasions on your calendar that signal getting together and sharing a dish at a party or get-together.

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Panzanella Salad
Courtesy Chef Victor Casanova, Culina

Rustic country loaf, exterior removed then cut into 1/2 inch dice
Three heirloom tomatoes cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 Cups fresh ripe watermelon, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 red onion, julienne
1/2 bunch basil, torn into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cucumber, cut into1/2 inch half-moons
4 oz. ricotta salata, coarsley grated
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, passed through a food mill
4 oz. DaVero Champagne Vinegar (can substitute)
3 oz. DaVero Extra Virgin Olive Oil "Dry Creek Estate" (can substitute)
S&P, to taste

1. Toast bread in pre-heated oven at 375 degrees until well colored but not brown.
2. Reserve bread.
3. Take the 4 vine-ripened tomatoes and pass through a food mill then combine in mixing bowl with vinegar and Oil.
4. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
5. Reserve vinaigrette.
6. In a large salad bowl combine all ingredients and toss well.
7. Season to taste.
8. Divide into 4 small salad bowls.