Grilled Bread and Tomato Salad
Now we are talking, leave it to the Italians to make a salad with bread in it. So authentic you’d think you are in Tuscany. Known as panzanella this salad was created in Italy traditionally to use up day old bread (real cooks never waste any food). I believe that they don’t even grill the bread as it is crisp already from being a day or so old. I tend to grill or sauté the bread in a little olive oil, it adds flavour, makes the texture just right and besides, the bread I use is not THAT old. I love this simple salad of ripe tomatoes tossed with grilled bread pieces and basil, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Fleur-de-Sel. The grilled bread soaks up the juices from the tomatoes and it’s so delicious. You can make a vinaigrette, like you would for a salad, and drizzle that over the bread and tomatoes but often the tomatoes have enough juice and acidity in them so nothing more than olive oil is required (okay, a little vinegar too if you wish). Only make this salad when tomatoes are perfectly ripe. Traditionally it is made with Italian plum variety but I have made it with beefsteak tomatoes, Campari tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes as well. Exquisite in its simplicity.
4 beautiful ripe tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 loosely packed cup basil leaved, shredded
6 cups bread cubes cut from a day old bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Fleur de del, Sicilian sea salt or another coarse sea salt
Slice tomatoes into thick slices and then cut across into chunks. Place tomatoes, onion and garlic in a bowl.
You can either grill the bread in the oven or sauté in a skillet on top of the stove:
To grill the bread in the oven: Cut the bread into cubes and place on a baking pan lined with foil. Drizzle olive oil over the bread and toss to coat the bread with the oil (not soak, just moisten). Place the baking pan in a preheated 400℉ oven and bake until bread is golden and lightly crisp. Remove from oven and cool.
To sauté: Heat up about 3 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet, add bread cubes (in one or two batches) and cook, tossing frequently, until bread has soaked up the oil and is turning golden in spots. Remove and let cool.
When the bread has cooled add it to the tomatoes-onion mixture, add a good drizzle of olive oil, vinegar and salt and toss gently to combine the ingredients. Add some of the basil, reserving a few ribbons for garnish. Scoop into a serving plate, garnish with the reserved basil leaves and serve with fleur de sel on the side.