This Italian summer salad is vibrant and delicious. Ripe tomatoes, crunchy bread and fragrant basil are tossed together with a simple, refreshing vinaigrette.
To start, preheat your oven to 375° degrees Fahrenheit.
To cut the bread, you can trim off the crust or you can leave just a bit of it on for a different texture. Depending on the size of the loaf, cut it into about 4 pieces lengthwise. Then cut again into a few slices lengthwise and tear into to approximately 1 1/2" pieces. You can cut the bread into cubes, but it’s also easy to tear it for a rustic look.
Toss the bread with a bit of olive oil and salt. Add just enough so that the bread is just lightly seasoned and coated. Then place onto a tray and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes. Toss about halfway through to ensure they are crisp on all sides. Once done, they should be crispy on the outside but still a bit soft in the middle. Set aside to cool, while you make the vinaigrette.
To prepare the vinaigrette, first mince the garlic. Using a bowl or jar, mix the garlic, vinegar and olive oil together. Make sure to use a quality olive oil as this salad is all about quality and fresh ingredients. Finish with a good pinch or two of salt and pepper. The vinaigrette should taste a tiny bit salty, as this is what will ultimately season the entire salad. Then shake to emulsify and set aside.
To prepare the salad, first wash the tomatoes. We use a variety of local heirloom tomatoes, but you can use any kind of tomatoes. Just remember the more flavorful the tomatoes are, the better the salad will be. Remove any stems from the tomatoes and core them if needed. Cut into wedges or bite-size pieces. Transfer them to a bowl and set aside.
Thinly slice the red onion. Pit the olives and tear them in half. Tear the mozzarella into bite-size pieces. Gather the basil and you can now begin to assemble the salad.
To assemble the salad, it’s best to layer it and toss as you go. Add about 1/3 of the bread, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and red onion. Then add a couple of tablespoons of the vinaigrette. To keep with the rustic look of the salad, tear about 1/3 of the basil with your hands. Then gently toss and continue building another 2 layers. Add just a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette at a time, as you don’t want the salad to become too soggy. Any leftover dressing will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Once all of the ingredients have been added, toss the salad one last time. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately. This salad is delicious on its own, but it also makes a great appetizer or side dish.
This salad is typically made with leftover, day-old bread. However, you don’t have to have day-old bread in order to make it. Fresh bread is fantastic. You just need to dry it out a bit in the oven so it doesn’t become soggy from the vinaigrette and the juice from the tomatoes.