Black Cherry Panzanella

As a chef whose career has orbited around Traverse City, Michigan, the esteemed “Cherry Capital of the World,” chef Bryon “Fig” Figueroa has often made a point of dotting his menus with cherry-centric dishes. One of his favorites is this black cherry panzanella, a simple, sweet and satisfying bread salad that Figueroa made into a summer staple at the new restaurant, Northport Pub & Grille in the small Michigan town of Northport.

Black Cherry Panzanella

Yields: 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 loaf Italian bread
  • 1 cup (8 oz) extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup (2 oz) balsamic vinegar
  • 2½ cups sweet black cherries, divided
  • cracked black pepper
  • salt
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup salted pistachios, toasted
  • 1 package (5 oz) baby mixed salad greens
  • 4 oz goat cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

Tear bread into bite-sized pieces or slice into 1-inch chunks; spread bread on cookie sheets or large rimmed baking pans, ideally in single layer to expedite drying. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature at least 3 hours or up to overnight to allow bread to dry out.

Remove pits from cherries. In blender or with immersion blender, puree oil, vinegar and ½ cup cherries until well blended. Add pepper and salt to taste. Cut remaining 2 cups cherries in half. In large bowl, toss dried bread with dressing, basil and pistachios. Divide salad greens between desired number of salad plates; top with panzanella. Sprinkle with pepper, salt, goat cheese and cherries.