Tomato and Bread Salad
Today every chef has his or her own rendition of panzanella. The idea is to use leftover bread to soak up the delicious juices of seasonal summer tomatoes. We finish our sum- mer panzanella salad with a traditional Italian cheese, such as thin slices of Grana Padano, fresh slices of ricotta salata or mozzarella, or even a spoonful of burrata, which has become a popular choice over the last few years. If you use a variety of different heir- loom tomatoes, the salad becomes a colorful sight to behold. It is perfect as an appetizer or as a side with grilled fish or meat.
- 8 ounces 2-day-old country-style bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
- 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, preferably a mix of heirloom, cored, seeded, and cut into chunks (about 4 cups)
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely shredded, a few whole leaves reserved
- One 3-ounce piece ricotta salata, or 1 small ball fresh mozzarella or burrata (optional)
Toss the bread, tomatoes, onion, and cucumbers in a large bowl until well mixed. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the salad, and toss to mix thoroughly. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Let sit until the dressing moistens the bread, about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how dry the bread was. If the bread isn’t soaked after 30 minutes, you can drizzle it with a few tablespoons of water and toss again.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with the basil, and, if using, shave the ricotta salata over the salad with a vegetable peeler. Season again with salt and pepper, toss gently, and serve. A sprig of basil placed in the center of the bowl makes for a great presentation.