Agri-Food Week | Transformation | Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad

Note: This recipe is a part of the 2021 Spring Agri-Education Experience with the Western Fair District

Heirloom vegetables are old varieties of plants that have been handed down through generations.  They differ from most vegetables you might find at a grocery store, that are grown to be predictable in taste and size.  Heirloom tomatoes come in all sorts of fun shapes, colours, textures, and taste, and names such as Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, and Green Zebra.  The other star of this recipe is the halloumi cheese. Halloumi is a semi hard cheese made from sheeps and goats milk that is traditionally from Cyprus, and the best part about this salty cheese is that it has a high melting point, so it can be fried or grilled.  

“Panzanella is a tuscan bread salad that is perfect for summer when tomatoes are at their peak!  This salad is a tasty accompaniment to a bbq meal as the halloumi cooks up beautifully on the grill!

Yield: Serves 6-8                                              Level:  Intermediate



  • 1 loaf crusty bread (ciabatta or another Italian bread works nice), cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 cucumber, cut into wedges
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 200 grams halloumi cheese, approximately 1 package
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste

For dressing:

  • 1 cup basil, loosely packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste


  • Cutting board
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Bread knife
  • Chef’s knife
  • Rasp
  • Food processor or blender
  • Large frying pan
  • BBQ, or grill pan
  • Bowls, various sizes
  • Baking sheet
  • Wooden spoon
  • Tongs
  • Tasting spoons
  • Dish towel

Get Organized!

Gather all your ingredients and equipment before you get started! 

Get Prepped!

Cut the bread into slices with a bread knife about 2 cm thick, and break down into cubes about 2 cm each. Toss the bread pieces in a large bowl with one tablespoon of olive oil, and season with pepper and salt. 

Cut the onion in half from root to tip, and remove the skin of the onion. 

Cut off the root and the tip of the onion, and slice the onion lengthwise, from root to tip very thinly.  

Remove the stem from the tomatoes and cut them in half through the core. Cut them into small wedges lengthwise. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, and then cut it into small wedges. 

Remove the leaves from the stem of the basil and discard the stem.

Cut the halloumi cheese into slices about ½ centimetre thick. Toss the halloumi cheese in a separate bowl with the other tablespoon of olive oil, and season with pepper and salt. 

For Dressing: Remove basil leaves from the stem of the basil, and place measure out 1 cup of leaves loosely packed. Using a rasp, finely mince the garlic. Alternately, you can chop the garlic very finely with a chef’s knife. Cut the lemon in half, and squeeze as much juice as possible, straining out the lemon seeds and discarding them along with the rest of the lemon. Measure out red wine vinegar, olive oil, and honey.  

Get Cooking! 

Heat your large frying pan over medium high heat, and add the cubed bread to the pan, working in batches to toast it. The bread should be golden and crispy on the outside but not burnt. Set aside to cool on a baking sheet. 

Combine your tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and basil leaves with the toasted bread in a large bowl.

To make your dressing, combine 1 cup of basil with minced garlic, honey, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar in a food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth, and season with salt and pepper.  Add the oil on a slow stream to emulsify into the dressing.  

Heat your bbq or grill pan, and cook the halloumi cheese 2-3 minutes on each side. The cheese should be crispy and browning, and just starting to melt but still holding its shape.  

Add the grilled halloumi to the bowl of other salad ingredients, and toss together with dressing to taste. Serve on a large platter with additional dressing on the side. This salad is best served when the halloumi is just freshly grilled and still warm.  



  The Clark Family Foundation
Urban Harvest Landscape
zdybThe Wilson Family FoundationThe Joanne and Tom Cowan Fund
The William and Katharine Kostuk Family FundLove Alchemy Cornerstone
TillsonburgLFHSGoodlife Fitness