Recipe: Nadia Lim’s Panzanella di Melanzane

Crispy croutons soak up the flavours of summer in this simple Italian dish. 

Words: Extract from Nadia: A Seasonal Journal  Photos: Rachael McKenna

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

In 2019, we stayed in a little village in Italy and the locals there declared this the “best panzanella ever”. I toast the bread in olive oil first to make the crispy croutons that soak up all the lovely tomato juices. Make sure you use sweet, ripe and juicy tomatoes grown at the peak of summer, and extra virgin olive oil. Stale bread makes for crispier croutons, but fresher bread still works and is also delicious.


1 large eggplant, sliced or chopped
1 small clove garlic
good pinch of rock salt
4 big, ripe, juicy tomatoes
1 small loaf (or equivalent) focaccia or ciabatta, torn into pieces
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
a very generous handful fresh basil
small handful sliced olives or capers (optional)


Toss eggplant with 3 to 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast or barbecue until golden and soft.

With a mortar and pestle, bash garlic with rock salt until a paste.  Add a good handful of the chopped tomatoes and crush to make a dressing. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Pan-fry the bread pieces in 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil until golden and crunchy.

Toss eggplant, remaining chopped tomatoes, toasted bread, tomato dressing, olives/capers (if using) and lots of fresh basil in a large bowl. Drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

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This is an extract from the summer edition of Nadia: A Seasonal Journal. This quarterly publication offers on how to grow vegetables and fruit and how to cook for family and friends with homegrown and locally sourced produce.

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