This is an interesting bread salad. At first glance it looks a panzanella salad, but as you get into the preparation of the tomatoes, you’ll find that it isn’t a typical panzanella salad at all. In this salad the tomatoes are broiled in the oven until their skins begin to char and blacken. The smoky flavor of the tomatoes adds a nice dimension to the salad and the kalamata olives contribute a bitter briny, salty note that offsets the crunchiness of the cucumber and croutons.
Another thing that makes this different from a panzanella salad is that the components of the salad do not marinate with the crispy bread croutons for their flavors to meld as they do in a typical panzanella. Here the croutons are tossed in at the last minute.
Take care when you are charring the tomatoes in the broiler that you’ve preheated your broiler and it is very hot before you add the tomatoes. If the tomatoes stay in the hot oven for too long before they char, they will begin to cook through and stew and you definitely do not want stewed tomatoes here.
In the original recipe we found the 3 to 2 ratio of olive oil to vinegar in the vinaigrette to be a bit too vinegary for our tastes, so in the recipe below we’ve cut back to a three to one ratio to solve the problem. It is very important that after the tomatoes have marinated in the vinaigrette with the cucumber and olives for a while that you drain the mixture very well by using a slotted spoon and adding it to a clean bowl tossing with the crusty croutons. Otherwise you will drown the croutons and they will lose all of their crunchiness and turn to mush.
Add the fresh basil at the very last minute to help retain its color and freshness and serve the salad immediately, again because the bread will absorb too much of the vinaigrette if you let it sit and your salad will turn into a soggy mess.
This is a great way to enjoy end-of-season tomatoes.
Bread Salad with Charred Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Olives
Adapted from Williams Sonoma’s Vegetable of the Day by Kate McMillan – serves 4
8 oz coarse country bread, about ½ a loaf, cut into 1” cubes, we used sourdough
Extra virgin olive oil
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. When the oil is hot, add the bread cubes & sprinkle with salt. Cook the croutons over medium heat, tossing frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until croutons are nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. Remove the croutons from skillet and set aside while you prepare the salad.
3 to 4 large ripe tomatoes, about 2 ½ lbs, several colors make it pretty
1 small English cucumber
½ of a red onion, peeled and diced
¾ cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced in half lenthwise
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Crunchy sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
½ bunch of basil leaves, torn in pieces
Preheat the broiler. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the tomatoes on the prepared sheet, stem side up. Broil until the skins begin to char and blacken, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the tomatoes over with tongs and broil for 2 to 3 minutes more. It may take longer depending on the size of the tomatoes or the heat of your broiler. Take care not to let the tomatoes cook through and begin to stew. When charred, remove from oven and let cool enough to handle. With tongs, transfer the tomatoes to a cutting board and cut in half horizontally, then coarsely chop. Remove and discard any of the stem and any loose skin from the tomatoes, but it is fine if a few bits of charred skin remain. Transfer the chopped tomatoes to a large bowl.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Cut the halves crosswise into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Add the cucumber to the tomatoes along with the onion, olives, olive oil, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and stir to mix. Let the salad stand at room temperature for up to 1 hour for the flavors to blend.
Just before serving, using a slotted spoon transfer the tomato salad to a clean bowl, leaving behind the accumulated juices for a moment. Toss in the toasted bread cubes and gently stir with a wooden spoon. If the salad needs more juice, add some of the liquid, a little bit at a time, from the other bowl, taking care not to soak the croutons. The croutons should remain a bit crispy. When you are happy with the salad, taste for seasonings, add the basil and toss gently again. Serve immediately.
This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.