This recipe comes to me from my friend Sarah, who used to work for St. Louis Bread Co / Panera. So technically it's their recipe, but passed on from friend to friend. This salad is not only a summer favorite, but works well into the early fall as well. The ingredients are key. Do not settle for shredded mozzarella. And don't cut anything out. The fresher the tomatoes, the better. I like buying mine from local farmer's markets or using the ones given to me by friends with tomato plants who have tomatoes coming out of their ears at the end of the summer and just want to get rid of them.
You will need:
- cut lettuce... not a lot, just enough to add some fluff (I like romaine best)
- LOTS of fresh tomatoes, quartered into fairly large chunks (one chunk should equal a mouthful)
- chopped fresh basil
- chopped or sliced red onion to taste
- sliced cucumbers, chopped in half
- fresh mozzarella pearls (the wet, soft kind that you can find in the specialty cheese area of the grocery store)
- Panera balsamic vinaigrette dressing (found in higher-end grocery stores like Schnucks or Dierbergs... maybe Hy-vee?)
Combine ingredients in large bowl and dressing and toss. Does not keep well. Serve within 12-24 hours. Or eat immediately :) The ratio of tomatoes to lettuce should be at least 1:1 or even 2:1 for best results. Enjoy this beautiful taste of Italy on a patio or balcony with a glass of wine on a cool evening = perfection itself.