Our big bread salad: Pork belly and cantaloupe panzanella

Pork belly and cantaloupe panzanella salad. Credit: Olivia Vanni.
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For those moments when we know we should probably eat a salad, but also really want to eat bread, there’s panzanella.

Typical to the Tuscan region of Italy, this customary summer dish is any carb-lover’s fantasy. Like other salads, panzanella includes an assortment of seasonal produce and a simple vinaigrette. Unlike other salads, it also consists of generous chunks of either stale or toasted bread. It offers a beautifully light bite and allows you to snack on some starches in a sophisticated way.

Now, we’ve taken the traditional premise of panzanella and decided to incorporate one of our favorite pairings for this time of year: pork belly and cantaloupe. With the addition of this rich protein and its fruity friend, you can take this recipe and make either an easy appetizer or a truly special main course.

1 baguette or ciabatta, cut into 1-inch slices¼ cantaloupe, cubed1 lb. pork belly1 c. fresh ciliegine mozzarella, cut in half¼ c. basil, cut chiffonade¼ c. apple cider vinegar¼ c. olive oil, plus more for drizzling over bread2 T. honeySalt and pepper

Put a cast iron or frying pan on the stove, over medium-high heat. Place the pork belly in the pan, fat strip down first and render the fat for about 5-10 minutes. Continue to cook the pork belly on all sides, continuing to render off fat for about 10 minutes more. Remove from heat and allow the pork to rest before cutting it into cubes.

Take the slices of baguette and drizzle both sides with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Place slices of baguette down flat on a hot grill, cooking each side until there are char marks. Remove them from heat and cut the slices into cubes.

In a bowl, mix together the cubes of toasted baguette, cantaloupe and pork belly, as well as the mozzarella and basil.

In a separate bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper. Drizzle this dressing over the salad, toss and serve.