Filling Italian Salad

With the heat wave after heat wave unfolding this year, I’ve been more interested in eating salads for lunch than sitting down in front of a steaming plastic container. One thing I whipped up in the kitchen recently was an Italian-flavored bean salad.

Many years ago, I saw a TV chef whip up panzanella, and the thought of crusty day-old bread soaked with a tasty vinaigrette sounded really good to me. Traditionally, panzanella is all about bread and tomatoes, but I remixed my salad to focus a bit more on protein–vegetarian or with meat. Here goes a recipe to serve 4 to 6 people, depending on how big of a salad you want to make:

  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained
  • Croutons, 4 or 6 servings per the label’s measurements
  • Fat-free Italian dressing, 5 or 7 servings per the label’s measurements
  • Grape tomatoes, 1 to 1.5 cups
  • White onion, raw and diced, to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and slivered, to taste

Place the beans in a bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half and add to the beans. Add the onion and basil, then the salad dressing. Add the croutons, then mix the ingredients. Chill for a few hours.

That’s it! To keep it strictly vegetarian, you can eat it just like that, served over a bed of lettuce. Or, you could also add any of these proteins:

  • An Italian turkey sausage link
  • 1 oz. of diced turkey ham
  • Turkey bacon
  • 1 oz. of grilled chicken
  • 1/4 cup of drained tuna

Additionally, you could add 1 oz. of part-skim mozzarella, or a tablespoon or two of parmesan cheese. I also like to add a little more fresh tomato to the assembled salad.

I like this salad because it’s quick and easy to make, and the ingredients aren’t hard on my wallet (especially the basil, as I have a monster of a plant growing in my backyard this year), the can of beans, and the croutons. (I can get a bag from my local supermarket for 99 cents.) And it’s filling, but light enough that you won’t feel sluggish in the middle of a hot summer day. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

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