It was only during my college years when I heard of a dining experience called Dine LA (or Dine Boston, Dine NY, etc.). For two weeks, restaurants showcase selected items from their menu to create a 3-course prix fixe menu. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a spare $45 lying around during college to take advantage of this experience. Fast forward several years and now I am fully taking advantage of Dine LA. My most visit recent was at a restaurant I have been dying to visit for quite some time, Tom Colicchio’s Craft in Los Angeles. Tom Colicchio quickly became my favorite chef after Top Chef and it was only right that I try his food. Although the menu didn’t seem too exciting, every dish was flavorful, well prepared and overall delivered a spectacular experience.

One of the first courses was an heirloom tomato cucumber Panzanella salad. I never thought much of this bread salad since it’s simply croutons with some tomatoes. Tom Colicchio’s version used farm-fresh vegetables and had a light vinaigrette that made this ordinary salad extraordinary. He reminded me that even a simple salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, and croutons can be exciting. Here is my version of the salad as an ode to the master chef, Tom Colicchio.

tomato panzanella salad

tomato panzanella salad


Serves 4


Tomato cucumber panzanella salad

30 minTotal Time

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  • 2 cups day old bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Basil vinaigrette
  • 1 1/2 ounces fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Remaining ingredients
  • 1 pint baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, halved and sliced
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups baby gem lettuce, washed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tsp za'atar seasoning


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss 2 cups day old bread with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  3. Make the basil vinaigrette by blending together 1 1/2 ounces fresh basil with 1 clove garlic, 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp honey, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil while the blender is on, emulsifying the dressing. Set aside.
  4. Toss together 1 pint halved tomatoes with sliced cucumbers, sliced shallots, baby gem lettuce, croutons, and the salad dressing. Top the salad with fresh parsley, scallions, and basil. Sprinkle za'atar seasoning on top and serve with additional dressing if desired.


**Helpful tips and common mistakes

Since Panzanella salad is composed of such few ingredients, each has to be fresh and delicious on its own. When combined, the ingredients should sing together and create one unifying dish.

Tomatoes are fresh and bountiful right now; heirloom tomatoes should be easy to find at any of your local markets. I chose baby heirloom tomatoes but you can also stick to cherry or grape tomatoes. Buy whatever looks the sweetest and freshest!

I love using sourdough bread for my croutons as opposed to regular french bread, but that’s a personal preference. This particular one I used was a loaf of homemade spice-crusted sourdough bread. Not a fan of sourdough? Choose french bread, baguette, or even garlic bread.

Toss all the ingredients right before serving to avoid having soggy croutons. Finish the tomato cucumber Panzanella salad with a handful of fresh herbs, and a sprinkle of za’atar seasoning. This may not be the same salad Tom Colicchio served, but it’s still delicious in every way.

tomato panzanella salad


Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.


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