The day after some ingenious cook baked the first loaf of fresh, soft, bread, that same cook tried to figure out how to use the noticeably less fresh leftovers.

Thank goodness for leftover bread. Without it there would be no croutons, no breadcrumbs, no bread pudding, no bread soup (yes, that’s a thing) and don’t even get me started on Thanksgiving stuffing.

A day-old loaf of hearty, rustic bread can feed an army, or at least your family.

One of my favorite ways to use it is in the iconic Italian salad panzanella. It’s a hearty, traditional summer salad made with cubes of day-old bread, often lightly toasted and tossed with juicy tomatoes in a light vinaigrette. Red onions, cucumbers and basil typically round out the dish.

In my version, Chicken BLT Panzanella, I take two of my favorite summer dishes — panzanella salad and BLT sandwiches — and combine them, along with a generous amount of shredded chicken, for a quick and satisfying meal that won’t leave you overheated on a hot day.

For this salad, your leftover bread is cubed and coated in the bacon drippings from your cooked bacon and briefly toasted in the oven. The toasted bread is tossed with tomatoes that have been marinating in a basic red wine vinaigrette.

Allowing the tomatoes to sit in the vinaigrette while you’re toasting your bread gives them the chance to release some of their juices. All the flavorful liquid gets soaked into the bread cubes, rendering them soft, but not mushy. I like to soak the red onions in the vinaigrette, along with the tomatoes, because the soaking process takes out that raw onion bite.

I skip the cucumbers in my version, although you’re welcome to add them to yours, replacing them with peppery arugula lettuce (the “L” in my BLT). The lettuce, cooked bacon, shredded chicken and a healthy dose of fresh basil are tossed into the salad just before serving.

The result is a quick, easy and inexpensive dinner, full of summer’s best flavors all soaked into a leftover loaf of bread.


Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at Follow her on Instagram ­at @meredithdeeds.