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Sunday, July 18, 2004

Charlotte's Bread Salad

I thought it might be time to post a recipe I'm somewhat famous for here on Love and Cooking. I brought it to a rec.food.cooking event one August (drove the tomatoes and bread down to LA *grin*), people liked it, and it started circulating. I have been careful to credit my source but people call it "Charlotte's". *preen*

Especially since it's a tomato recipe and the farmer's market looks like this:

Tomatoes at the Berkeley Market

(Yes, L&C is now fully digicammed. Whoohoo!)

The recipe has a bonus in a Pretty Good Vinaigrette recipe for many of your summer salad needs.

If you have access to EXTRA GOOD summer tomatoes, and you and your eaters are not on Atkins or South Beach (some of us feel a moral obligation to make up for the carbs those poor souls are missing), this will wow people. But please don't ever make it if you can't get your hands on real summer tomatoes (I love using Brandywines from the market; I like mixing up the colors, too) and extra-good bread. I usually use sourdough because that is what I eat, but any firm mostly-white country-style bread (Italian, French) will do fine.

Bread Salad with Tomatoes, Onions, and Olives (Panzanella)
Michele Anna Jordan in Kitchen Garden magazine, some variations by Charlotte and friends

Serves 4 (side servings ... but it scales up very nicely)

Dressing:

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I usually use a heaping teaspoon - clb)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2/3 cup olive oil (extra-virgin recommended)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:

4 cups day-old Italian, sourdough, or country bread, in 1" cubes
2 to 2 1/2 cups chopped or halved cherry tomatoes (A color mix is very pretty if you have it - clb)
1 small red onion (diced) (I often leave this out since I have a friend who is allergic to onions. It is okay without it - clb)
3 Tablespoons Italian parsley (minced)
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (I often add more, or other kinds of good olives - clb)

2 Tablespoons drained capers (my usual variant - clb)

Salad greens for serving (optional)

Make the dressing by combining the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, and garlic in a bowl. Whisk the olive oil in. Add salt and pepper; add a little more mustard or vinegar if you want it a little sharper.

Put the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and pour part of the dressing over
them. Toss to coat evenly. Let sit for 30 minutes or so.

Here's where Charlotte gives you a big tip not in the original recipe: if you are using diced tomatoes, keep back some of the dressing and add the tomatoes shortly after you add the salad dressing to the bread bits. They exude delicious juice and moisten the bread. If you add all the dressing, the bread will get soggy in a bad way. The dressing makes 1 cup; for a double recipe of salad with juicy tomatoes, I used 1/2 to 2/3 cup of dressing (out of the total 2 cups for a double recipe of dressing) and the salad was fine. This is especially useful if you end up having leftovers, which I did. I will also often let the cubes soak for a bit longer as I prepare other things, covered with a clean kitchen towel.

To serve, add the tomatoes (if you didn't add them in before - clb), onions, olives, parsley, and whatever variants you're using to the bread cubes and toss. Serve on salad greens if desired.

Variation: Roasted red and/or yellow bell peppers, diced.

Variation: Fry four slices of bacon. Use 2 Tablespoons bacon fat and enough olive oil to make 2/3 cup. Crumble the bacon in the salad.

Variation from Samantha D. of RFC: Replace some or all of the parsley with fresh chopped basil.

Edited later to add a picture of a salad itself:

Salad with yellow and red tomatoes and peppers

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