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Shrimp and Black Bean Panzanella

Renée Robinson

Everything I Love in a Meal is Right Here on This Plate.

My love for panzanella is no secret. It happens to be a dish that ticks all my bells and I’ve made and posted several variations. In my ever-so-humble opinion, a really good panzanella can’t be beaten. It will always be in my top tier of favorite foods. And this is where the home cook can really shine because I have yet to eat a good one at a restaurant. 

There are a few key elements that are essential to a successful panzanella. First and foremost is the bread. This isn’t the place for a finely textured soft bread. You need a crusty and rustic type of bread. Sourdough is good here, as is ciabatta, etc. Cut or tear it into chunks, toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and bake it in the oven until it’s nicely crisped. The insides of the pieces won’t be fully crisp and that’s what you want. This can be done early in the day and put to the side until you’re ready to put together the whole salad. 

If you’re using tomatoes, they need to be good tomatoes. This isn’t the place for mealy flavorless tomatoes. If it’s not the season for great local tomatoes, I always opt for Campari tomatoes. After sitting on the counter for a few days they’re always tasty and have great texture. A few cherry or grape tomatoes are nice to add into the mix. Using J. Kenji Lopez Alt’s technique, I cut up all the tomatoes, place them in a colander set over a big bowl, and toss them with salt. After draining for a half hour, all the drained juices are used in my dressing.

Speaking of the dressing, it needs to be potent. I like lots of minced shallots, Dijon mustard, good vinegar, and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. This is my base dressing. But I added some extra ingredients for this particular variation because I decided to add black beans and shrimp to my salad. Some chipotle chili and adobo sauce, tomato vinegar, and toasted cumin seeds seemed right to me.

Earlier in the day I cooked a pot of Rancho Gordo Frijol Negro Santanero Beans from Oaxaca. I used 2 cups of the cooked beans for this recipe and ate the rest for multiple meals throughout the week. They’re tiny and creamy and taste almost meaty. That being said, you don’t need to cook beans from scratch for this recipe. You can certainly use 2 cups of canned black beans.

So, you’ve got your toasted bread made and cooled, the tomatoes have drained and you’ve whisked the other dressing ingredients into the drained tomato juices. Now it’s time to toss in the toasted bread and cut up tomatoes. You want to time your meal so the bread has a chance to soak up the dressing before you serve the salad. After 15 minutes of soaking, toss in the black beans and plenty of sliced scallions and let them mingle for another 15 minutes. Your panzanella will then be ready.

During those last 15 minutes of waiting for the bread to finish soaking up the dressing, it’s time to quickly sauté the shrimp. Heat up a large skillet until it is good and hot, add olive oil, and then the shrimp, which has been seasoned with salt, pepper, and morita chipotle chili flakes. Let the shrimp cook without moving them for 2 minutes. Quickly flip them over and remove the skillet from the heat. After one minute, the residual heat in the skillet will have finished cooking the shrimp and they’ll be perfectly cooked.

Then it’s only a matter of plating the salad, topping it with the shrimp and cilantro leaves, and serving it with lime wedges. The lime is important. It really perks up everything. So, that’s it, folks. Each bite is brimming with flavor. Some of the crustier pieces of bread will remain chewy and crisp, while others will be almost creamy from absorbing the dressing. The tomatoes have been fully seasoned and will be super juicy. The beans add an earthy element and the sweet shrimp are like icing on the cake, while the chipotles add smokiness and a little bit of heat. This plate of food has everything I could want in a meal. I hope you feel the same. 

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Shrimp and Black Bean Panzanella

Recipe by Renée Robinson



Panzanella or bread salad, made with tomatoes, black beans, shrimp, chipotles in adobo, and toasted cumin seeds. Add cilantro and lime wedges for serving. Talk about a fabulous meal!

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  • 1 pound Rancho Gordo Frijol Negro Santanero Beans from Oaxaca - or 2 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained

  • Water

  • Morton kosher salt

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

  • 3/4 pound crusty rustic bread, cut or torn into 1 1/2 inch cubes

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces (I used a mix of Campari and cherry tomatoes)

  • 1 large shallot, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced, along with 2 teaspoons of the adobo sauce

  • 2 tablespoons tomato vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, coarsely ground

  • Black pepper, freshly ground

  • 2 bunches scallions, white parts sliced into 1/4 inch rounds, green parts sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

  • 1 pound extra large shrimp

  • 1 teaspoon morita chipotle chili flakes

  • Handful cilantro leaves

  • 1 lime, cut into wedges


  • Pick through the beans, making sure there is no debris, rinse, and place in a Dutch oven. Stir in 8 cups water, 1 1/2 tablespoons Morton kosher salt, and let soak overnight. Drain the beans, add 10 cups water, 1 teaspoon Morton kosher salt, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Let boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid, and let gently simmer until the beans are fully cooked and softened. Mine only took about 45 minutes. Set aside. If using drained canned black beans, simply eliminate this step and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° with a rack in the center. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and add the bread. Toss lightly with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring midway, until the bread is crisp, but only very lightly golden. You don’t want it to brown darkly. Set aside.
  • Set a colander over a large bowl. Add the cut up tomatoes to the colander and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt. Toss gently and let drain for about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove the colander from the bowl and set it in the sink. To the tomato juices in the bowl, whisk in the minced shallot, Dijon mustard, chipotle chili and adobo sauce, tomato vinegar, and cumin seeds. Slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil while whisking constantly. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper.
  • Add the toasted bread cubes and tomatoes to the bowl of dressing and toss well. Let sit for 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Add the scallions and beans and stir gently. Let sit for an additional 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season the shrimp with Chipotle chili flakes, salt and pepper. When the oil in the skillet is good and hot (almost smoking), add the shrimp in a single layer and let cook for 2 minutes. Flip the shrimp and remove the pan from the heat. The residual heat from the skillet will finish cooking the shrimp after the pan sits for about 1 minute. Remove the shrimp from the skillet.
  • Right before serving, add the shrimp to the panzanella and scatter on the cilantro leaves. Serve with wedges of fresh lime and Enjoy!

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