But what if I took the essence of that salad, the bread, and applied it to tortillas? Change out the cucumbers for raw tomatilla's, change the mozzarella cheese for queso fresco and play with a poblano dressing instead of balsamic? It's a panzanella salad, just a Mexican version instead of Italian.
Using the tomatillo's raw give a nice crunchiness to the salad which in the original version comes from the cucumbers, but it also gives a fruity/tangy flavor that kicks up the salad. The roasted poblano vinaigrette brings a smoky, peppery flavor that plays off the the fresh oranges.
This may not replace the original panzanella as my favorite, but it's a great option and works nicely in the winter while waiting for the summer tomatoes. It's a fat and happy version that works as a great side salad or a light lunch.
Tip and Techniques: If you want to make this salad ahead of time, wait to add the tortilla's until you are ready to serve. Use gluten free tortillas for a GF options. To peel the tomatillo's, run them under water, this will help remove the outer brown paper skin and will help to remove the sticky surface left on them.
Mexican Panzanella Salad
1 whole wheat tortilla (choose gluten free if preferred)
4 raw tomatillos, chopped
1/4 cup thin sliced red onion
2 ounces queso fresco (crumbling Mexican cheese)
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Cut the tortilla in half, then in half again and then again ( you should end up with 8 pie-shaped pieces.) Place the tortilla pieces on a cookie sheet; bake until they are crispy.
Zest the orange for use in the dressing (recipe below). Cut the rind and all the white pith off of the orange, cut into segments over a bowl to help catch all the juices. Carefully slice the avocado in half and remove the pit, slice the avocado and add to the orange segments. Squeeze the lime over the avocado to help keep it from turning brown. Slice the red onion as thin as possible, add to the salad along with the cheese and tomatillos.
Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad, toss lightly. Break up the crispy tortillas and layer over the top. Enjoy.
1 roasted poblano pepper
1 thumb of fresh ginger (about 2 inches)
1 small shallot
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbls red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbls honey
salt and pepper
up to 1/4 cup water
Roast the poblano pepper, remove the core and seeds, set aside. Chop the ginger and the shallot, cook over medium low heat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil for 2 minute.
Place all the ingredients (except the water) in a blender, blend on high to combine. Add a few drizzles of water as needed to thin out the dressing and reach desired consistency. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.