Ingredients:2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 pounds tomatoes, seeded and chopped, with juices reserved
1/2 to 3/4 pound country bread, cut into 1-inch thick slices
8 best-quality anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained, and chopped (optional)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup salt-packed capers, rinsed (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
30 fresh basil leaves (about 3/4 cup) torn into pieces or cut into narrow strips
Directions:In a small bowl, combine the garlic and vinegar. Season with a little salt and pepper and set aside. Place the tomatoes and their juices in a large salad bowl.
Toast or grill the bread slices, let cool slightly, and then tear into bitesized pieces. Add the bread to the tomatoes. Then add the anchovies, cucumber, and/or capers, if using.
Whisk 1/2 cup of the olive oil into the vinegar mixture to form a vinaigrette. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the tomato mixture and toss to coat all the ingredients evenly. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary, and scatter the basil over the top. If you make the salad too far in advance, the bread will soak up the dressing, and you may need to add some or all of the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. The plus, however, is that the flavors will intensify while it sits.
Traditionally, this Italian bread salad is made with day-old or older bread. In the past, it was a way for cooks to stretch out the life of bread that was baked just once a week. Day-old bread will work for this recipe, too, but toasted bread, torn into bits, makes for more crunch. Be sure to use your best extra-virgin olive oil and perfectly ripe tomatoes. This salad makes a terrific summer meal.
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