Donut Peach Panzanella with Arugula, Ricotta Salata + Tarragon {gluten-free}

Toasted gluten-free sourdough cubes become salad with the addition of sliced donut peaches, tarragon, crispy fennel, peppery arugula and a shallot vinaigrette. Adapted from The Easy Vegetarian Kitchen by Erin Alderson.

Donut peaches are some of the first summer produce to come in each year – for about 5 minutes. I usually manage to catch a few and eat them all up. The tiny peaches are not only adorable, they have a soft floral flavor and are always sweet and juicy. Their short season makes them all the more precious. Usually by the time I’ve thought up a fun dish in which to feature them, they’re gone, but this year I was determined not to let that happen. 

This salad inspiration comes from Erin‘s brand-spanking-new book The Easy Vegetarian Kitchen which features 50 classic vegetarian recipes with 4 seasonal variations each. I hung out with Erin while she was working on the book, and I can tell you that the cherry scones have the most dreamy texture I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve had my fair share of scones). The zucchini soba salad is TO DIE FOR, and the lasagna stuffed peppers are too. I’ve been waiting the better part of a year to get these recipes in my hot hands, and I couldn’t wait to start cooking my way through it.

Luckily I didn’t wait too long, and I caught the little peachy buggers before they disappeared and turned them into this panzanella.


Panzanella is essentially crouton salad: crusty bread cubes slathered in olive oil and toasted, then tossed with vinaigrette and whatever vegetables you like – classically big fat heirloom tomatoes dripping with juice. The bread soaks in the juices, retaining some of its crispiness against tender tomatoes, and a garlicky vinaigrette sets it all off. Erin offers versions with peas for spring, blistered cherrry tomatoes for summer, roasted beet and apple for fall, and a butternut squash and cornbread option for winter. Yum, yum, yum and yum.

Sweet peaches make good tomato stand-ins, and I pair them with tarragon, fennel, arugula for kick, and thin slices of ricotta salata. I add shallots to the vinaigrette to up the savory notes, and I use gluten-free sourdough from Bread Srsly, which not only has a great name, but is by far the best white gluten-free bread I’ve tried, and is made right here in San Francisco. Like hearty wheat loaves, it has big air pockets which makes it ideal for panzanella.

This salad has plenty of good things going on: sweet peaches and crunchy bread cubes, a kicky vinaigrette flecked with shallot and sharpened with lemon and champagne vinegar, herbaceous tarragon and crunchy fennel, and peppery arugula leaves. One recipe makes enough for a light meal for two, or a starter for four to six. I think this would be extra amazing charred on a grill for a summer cook-out.

As with all salad recipes, feel free to play fast and loose with the components here. And don’t worry if you’ve missed the donuts – regular peaches or nectarines will work just as well.

*Congratulations to the winner of The 52 New Foods Challenge Raya Thoma who writes that her favorite new food is “stinging nettles–I tried them in a savory pie with feta cheese and they were delicious.” Yes, please! That sounds amazing.* 

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Salad Days:
Cucumber Melon Caprese Salad
Green, Yellow and Romano Bean Salad with Sweet Corn and Feta
Farro and Cucumber Salad with Feta, Dill and Mint

Peachy Keen:
Southern-Style Peach Cobbler with Maple Sugar, Brown Butter and Bourbon {gluten-free}
Rosemary Peach Maple Leaf Cocktail
Maple Sugar, Bourbon and Brown Butter Peach Crisp

Donut Peach Panzanella with Arugula, Ricotta Salata + Tarragon {gluten-free}

Adapted from The Easy Vegetarian Kitchen by Erin Alderson

Feel free to play around with the components here, trading out the bread or peaches for whatever you’ve got on hand. Feta could stand in for the ricotta salata, melon for the peaches, basil for the tarragon. 

Serves 2 as a light meal, 4-6 as a starter

Bread Cubes:
4 cups (200 g) cubed GF sourdough bread (such as Bread Srsly)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Dressing:
1 1/2 teaspoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon (30 ml) lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Salad:
1/2 pound (225 g) donut peaches (about 6 small), halved, pitted, and cut into large chunks
1/4 of a large fennel bulb, very thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup), plus a few pretty fronds
2 cups arugula leaves
a large handful tarragon leaves
2 ounces (56 g) ricotta salata, sliced (about 1/2 cup)

Make the bread cubes:
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Spread the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Spread the cubes in a single layer and toast until golden on the bottom, 10-15 minutes. Flip the slices over and continue toasting until the bottoms are golden, 5 more minutes.Make the dressing:
In a small bowl, stir together the shallot, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Make the salad:
In a large bowl or platter, combine the bread cubes, peaches, fennel bulb and fronds, arugula, and tarragon. Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently to coat. Toss in the ricotta salata. Serve soon after assembling while the bread is crisp.

30 thoughts on “Donut Peach Panzanella with Arugula, Ricotta Salata + Tarragon {gluten-free}”

  1. I love donut peaches, can't wait to find them here!
    Btw, the original Italian panzanella is a recycling recipe for stale bread: it's not toasted but soaked for a while in cold water, then dressed with cider and olive oil – plus tomatoes and basil and some other ingredients of choice :)

  2. This combination sounds out of control perfect! I have never had a donut peach which is strange, since my area is known for our gorgeous peaches (which unfortunately won't be available until August!) — so, I may need to wait a while before I make this, but it's definitely happening when local peaches are in. Erin's book sounds fantastic and all the things you listed are making me so hungry. Beautiful, Alanna! xo

    1. Yeah, it was a weirdly early year for everything because of the drought I guess! I'm sure the peaches will be headed your way soon. Thanks for the note Kate!!

  3. Ahhh the donut peaches!!! So with you on the oddly short season–why must they leave my life so soon?! Actually, why do they not even enter my life when in Texas?! Travesty. But definitely going to try to make a version of this (perhaps with plain ol' Texas peaches) sometime this summer because bread salad is obviously my favorite kind of salad ;)

  4. Mmmh, a really great combination – one that I must try out very, very soon. I stumbled for a moment over donut … panzanella with arugula etc. and questioned your sanity, then thought you might have found the next big thing but it's the peaches! We know them as vineyard peaches though the donut shape is of course self-explanatory. Duh. Nicole xx

  5. This sound amazing! I love salads with all kinds of things going on! makes my taste buds happy! I really like Erin's idea of taking one recipe and adapting it to fit all four seasons so clever ;)

  6. Last week I spied doughnut peaches at the co-op, and walked right on by as if in a dream or something. After-all, it is May and I've not even had a cherry! I think i'll pick a few up next time I'm there – if they are still available! Beautiful, delicious and inspiring post, Alanna! Thank you!

  7. Oh my gosh this salad! I'm in love with every single thing on this plate — it is sheer perfection and so perfect for summer. And your photos, as always, are so stunning. Love this, Alanna!

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