Recipe: Crunchy Crouton, Summer Veggie, and Mozzarella Salad

The New York Botanical Garden presents The Edible Garden, a campus-wide, summer-long celebration of growing great food. From June 27 through September 13, 2009, visitors to the Garden will enjoy multiple exhibits, celebrated chefs, and engaging demostrations. Appearing this year, among others, is Food Network’s Aida Mollenkamp from the interactive cooking show Ask Aida. Here, she shares with Post readers a salad that celebrates the best of summer.

This simple, sweet summer salad is loaded with color and flavor and is the perfect way to taste the best of summer produce. Because it’s easy to throw together, scrumptious, and healthy, it’s a great way to get kids interested in veggies (spinach can be added for more adventurous eaters).

Crunchy Crouton, Summer Veggie, and Mozzarella Salad
Recipe courtesy of Aida Mollenkamp

(Makes 4 servings)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Tear or cut bread into bite-sized chunks and add to medium bowl. Drizzle olive oil all over bread, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss to coat. Transfer bread to sheet pan, put in oven and toast until crisp and golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. (You should have about 6 cups.)

Combine vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in large nonreactive serving bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add toasted bread and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Add tomatoes, peppers, corn, mozzarella, and spinach, if using, and toss to thoroughly combine. Taste piece of bread and season with more salt or pepper if needed. Let sit at least 15 minutes or up to 4 hours before serving. Just before serving, add chives and basil, toss to combine.

(Note: Get the kids involved by having them help tear the bread and basil for this salad.)

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 15 minutes
Ease of preparation: easy