Bread salad, or panzanella, is a terrific side dish. The variations are endless, use whatever is available, raw or cooked, or a combination. The bread can be sautéed, as in this recipe, baked, or just moistened with some liquid. Play with herb and spice combinations–curry powder, chili powder, Herbes de Provence…

4 T olive or other vegetable oil, divided
3 c cubed whole grain bread, or any bread, really
1 c chopped (red) bell pepper
1 c chopped fresh tomatoes, optional
8 c or so arugula or other greens, or a combination
1 T minced garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
3 T balsamic or other vinegar
1 c grated Parmesan or other cheese

1. Heat 3 T of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in bread and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can toss the bread with a couple tablespoons of oil and bake for about 15 minutes in a 350°F oven.

2. Add bell pepper, tomatoes, if using, and arugula. Sauté, stirring, until the arugula has wilted and the vegetables have heated through. Make a space in the center of the skillet. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, if necessary, and toss in the garlic. Cook the garlic for about half a minute, until it’s sizzling, then combine with the rest of the ingredients. Remove from heat, season with some salt and pepper, then drizzle in the balsamic. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve warm (though room temperature is great, too).

3. If you’ve baked the bread cubes, then sauté the other ingredients as above, and combine with the bread cubes once the skillet is off the heat.