Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer Bread Salad

This salad is best with some really ripe and juicy tomatoes. Unfortunately it seems it hasn’t been quite hot enough yet. I picked my tomatoes up a few days in advance and let them ripen a little on the counter. With that minor caveat, this is a favorite salad of mine and other family members as well. 
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3 C. dried bread cubes, rustic works best
½ red bell pepper, thin slices about 1-1 ½ inches long  
½ red onion, diced
½ C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (aka EVOO)
1-4 cloves of garlic
½ C. coarsely cut basil
2-3 C. diced tomatoes, preferably a variety of colors (about 3-4 medium tomatoes)
1 T. red wine vinegar
optional 8 anchovy fillets finely chopped

It is best to cube your bread early in the day and set it out in the sun. Or you can dry it in a 200-250 degree oven. You need 4 cups of cubes as they shrink when dried out. Toothsome bread is preferred as the bread absorbs all the moisture from the tomatoes etc. I have never done this with packaged bread, but you could in a pinch. The salad is really about ripe tomatoes and the bread is really a foil for all the other delicious ingredients!

Place the onions and sliced peppers in a small mixing bowl. Add a good pinch of salt and the red wine vinegar. Tip: if your tomatoes are not quite as ripe as you’d hoped use balsamic vinegar instead of the red wine vinegar. The sweetness can boost the tomatoes. Let this mixture set for 20 minutes or so. 

Chop garlic, as much as you can tolerate. The garlic is generally quite good now, so live dangerously! Pour the ½ C. olive oil over it immediately. Then add your coarsely cut basil and stir. Add a pinch of salt and let this mixture sit as well. If adding anchovy now is the time. I like to add a tablespoon or two of the oil from the jar. (Anchovy tip: always open a fresh can or jar. Use old ones at your own risk!) These first two steps can be done well in advance and refrigerated, or even left out on the counter. Best to cover with plastic if doing so.

Dice the tomatoes and salt generously. Taste. Add the onion, peppers and garlic/basil mixture to the tomatoes. Taste again. It should taste so good you want to start eating it before it’s done. If not, adjust seasoning. Add more basil, salt or even a spot of vinegar if needed. If it tastes a little lean or the tomatoes are a little acidic, add a generous pour of your best olive oil. It is best to let the salad sit for about a half hour to allow the bread to absorb the juices. This is generally a crowd pleaser. It is especially fun to tell people who love it that the anchovies are the “secret!” They add an exceptional savory quality and people can seldom taste them. 

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