Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) by ChefNg

Ingredients

Yields 10 to 12 servings: 1 (12- to 16-ounce) loaf artisan bread (8 to 10 very full cups) 2 to 3 large heirloom tomatoes (3 pounds, about 8 cups chopped) 1/2 large cucumber 1 red or yellow bell pepper 1/2 red onion 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 1/2 teaspoon salt Pepper, to taste 1/2 cup thinly sliced basil

Instructions

1. Slice the bread into 1-inch cubes: Slice or tear the bread into roughly 1-inch cubes. I usually leave the crusts on, but you can remove them if you prefer. You should have about 10 overflowing cups of bread.

2. Dry the bread: Spread the bread cubes over a baking sheet. Leave uncovered overnight to stale and harden. Alternatively, bake in a 300F oven until hardened on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking.

3. Chop the vegetables: Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. Slice the onion into thin slices and soak in a bowl of cold water for 10 to 15 minutes while assembling the rest of the salad.

4. Make the vinaigrette: Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a jam jar. Shake vigorously. Alternatively, combine ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

5. Combine the salad in a bowl: Combine the bread and chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and use a spatula to thoroughly combine.

6. Let the salad sit for 1/2 hour to 4 hours: Let the salad sit at least a half an hour before serving, or up to 4 hours. Stir occasionally so the juices and vinaigrette is evenly distributed.

7. Add basil and serve: Just before serving, stir in the basil. This salad is best eaten the day it's made.


Notes:
* Leftover Panzanella: Leftovers will keep for a few days in the fridge, but the flavor of the tomatoes will be less bright and the bread can over-soak. Even so, its still one of the best salads of summer.