Edible Alphabet Recipe of the Week: Spicy Panzanella Salad

By Lindsay S. RSS Tue, May 26, 2020

Edible Alphabet is a free English Language Learning (ELL) program offered by the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center. The mission is to teach English language and literacy skills through hands-on cooking projects. While Free Library locations remain closed to the public in the interest of public health and safety, we will be sharing weekly recipes from our class curriculum and past participants.  

Are you baking more bread than you know what to do with? Do you have fruits and vegetables in your refrigerator you need to use up? This week we are making a great clean-out-your-fridge recipe from the Edible Alphabet original curriculum: Spicy Panzanella Salad. This recipe calls for tomatoes and cucumbers but you can sub any juicy vegetable or fruit (zucchini, lettuces, peaches, grapes). My favorite thing about this recipe is that it is best with leftover, hard bread that you might otherwise throw away. Now that my office is only 3 feet away from my kitchen, I make variations on this salad all the time for a quick and delicious lunch. My current favorite features halloumi cheese, lemon, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers, and leftover sourdough.

Last week, I had the opportunity to lead our first virtual Edible Alphabet cooking class, which featured Spicy Panzanella Salad. Recently arrived refugees, immigrants, and asylees working with HIAS PA and Nationalities Service Center joined Chef Instructor Jameson and myself through video conference to learn and practice English communication as we explored this recipe. It was a wonderful way to connect during these times of separation and I am so looking forward to the time when we are able to cook together in the libraries again. Learners were excited to try out the recipe and had a few of their own ideas for variations—some wanted to omit the jalapeno, while others were interested in adding chicken or eggs for protein. 

Spicy Panzanella is a recipe featured in Leanne Brown’s 2015 cookbook, Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day. You can access this fantastic resource in English and Spanish through the Free Library's collection of ebooks. PDFs are also available for free download on Leanne Brown’s website. Good and Cheap was written with the $4/day SNAP budget in mind and features creative recipes for people who are living on a limited budget and interested in preparing delicious and healthy food. Some of my all-time favorite recipes from this book are Vegetable Jambalaya (page 97), Mexican Street Corn (page 60), and Chana Masala (page 93). If you are looking for cooking inspiration that is affordable and accessible, I highly recommend checking out this cookbook!


Spicy Panzanella Salad


  • 1 English (seedless) cucumber  
  • 2 cloves garlic  
  • 2 tomatoes (if not in season, 1 pt. cherry or grape tomatoes)  
  • 1-2 limes (juice only)  
  • ½ cup basil leaves, torn  
  • ½ loaf of baguette  (or other leftover bread)
  • Kosher salt  
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided  
  • Black pepper  
  • 1 jalapeño pepper 


  1. Cut tomatoes and cucumber into bite-sized cubes and add to a large bowl; save 2 Tbsp. of the tomatoes for the dressing 
  2. Add salt and pepper to vegetables and stir. 
  3. Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes. 
  4. Add 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet and heat, then add the bread cubes and cook them for approximately 4–5 minutes. 
  5. Add bread to the bowl on top of the cucumbers and tomatoes. 
  6. Dice the garlic and jalapeño pepper. 
  7. In the same skillet, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic, and jalapeños and stir; when they sizzle, add the remaining tomatoes and the lime juice and stir again.
  8. Add the contents of the pan to the other ingredients.
  9. Add basil leaves and stir.

For more information about Edible Alphabet and the Culinary Literacy Center, visit freelibrary.org/cook or email kitchen @ freelibrary . org. Enjoy this recipe? Leave a comment and stay tuned for another Edible Alphabet recipe next week!

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