Tuscan Bread Salad

From A Villa In Tuscany by Sharon O'Connor

This rustic Panzanella or Tuscan Bread Salad is perfect for hot summer days and gives new life to stale bread. It tastes even better when the flavors have a chance to blend, so make it ahead. Drizzle with some of your best extra-virgin olive oil just before serving.

Panzanella Tuscan Bread Salad

12 cups water
12 slices stale country-style Italian bread, crusts removed
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 ripe plum tomatoes, halved, seeded, and finely diced (see Cook's Tips)
1/3 cucumber, seeded and finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
12 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, plus 4 basil leaves for garnish

  1. In a large, combine the water, bread slices, and 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Set aside and let the bread soak for 30 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, and onion.
  3. Lift the bread from the water and squeeze it firmly between your hands to remove as much water as possible. Crumble the bread into the bowl with the tomato mixture. Add the olive oil, the remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, the salt, and sliced basil; stir until well combined. Let the salad stand at room temperature at least 1 hour so the flavors can blend.
  4. Just before serving garnish the panzanella with the basil sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil.

Makes 4 servings