This is one of my summer favorites, a cold salad using lots of veggies straight from the garden, stale bread, and little cooking required! That’s my kind of meal right there. When it’s sultry inside the house and cooking a big meal would raise the kitchen an unbearable few degrees, this is the right recipe.
Panzanella, adapted from The River Cottage Bread Handbook
1 pound 2 oz stale white bread (ciabatta works best, sourdough also has a nice flavor)
2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cucumber, chopped small
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped small
a handfull of capers (optional, I realize probably not very many people keep capers in their cupboard)
5 teaspoons white wine vinegar or cider vinegar (I also LOVE honey vinegar with this)
pinch of sugar
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
a big bunch of basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a roasting pan, toss the bread with half the olive oil, then bake, shaking the pan occasionally to make sure everything cooks evenly, until golden and crispy. This step is totally optional, it depends on if you want your bread crunchy (like croutons) or chewy. Let cool, toss with the onion, cucumber, tomatoes (including all their juices), and capers in a large serving bowl.
In a small bowl, wish the rest of the olive oil with the vinegar and sugar. Pour over the salad and season generously with salt and pepper. Tear the basil (be rough with it, that helps get the basil-y flavors going), and toss with the rest of the salad. Serve right away or let stand at room temperature so the flavors meld.