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Cooking the Channel: A Duo of David Rocco Salads

Summer in a bowl: David Rocco's panzanella salad

Summer in a bowl: David Rocco's panzanella salad

On a sweltering Sunday, the last thing I wanted to do was turn on a burner or the oven. It was the perfect day for light, refreshing no-cook recipes. Maybe a salad, I thought, but not any old boring jumble of lettuce and dressing. A couple fresh Italian salads from David Rocco’s Dolce Vita caught my eye and I knew they’d make an ideal summer meal.

I started with David’s panzanella, a Tuscan staple that I fell in love with while studying abroad in Florence. The first crucial step to this colorful, flavor-packed salad is the bread. The sliced wheat you have on hand for sandwiches just won’t do. You need a loaf of crusty Italian bread, preferably day-old.

Italian bread

I dipped my bread slices in water and cut them up into chunks. Then I squeezed the juice out of my cherry tomatoes, reserving it in a small bowl. Though a bit messy, using the tomato juice as the base of my olive oil-red wine vinegar dressing infused the whole salad with a wonderfully fresh, tomatoey flavor.

Since this salad has so few ingredients, make sure you use good ones. Get fresh basil that looks bright and green and tear up the leaves. For me, the more basil the better.

While this went into the refrigerator to meld—David suggests a few hours—I got started on salad #2. This one’s a protein-packed combination of white beans and tuna. Tossed with a little chopped celery for crunch, olive oil and a liberal amount of lemon juice, it is ridiculously simple and delicious.

White Bean-Tuna Salad

These salads tasted great side by side—the creamy tuna-white bean salad and sweet-tart panzanella complement each other well. David adds a Beef Braised in Chianti to the spread, which sounds perfect for a breezy Italian summer night—just maybe not a humid, New York one.

What are you cooking to stay cool this summer?

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