Traditionally this salad is a great way to use up yesterday’s bread. Particularly in Tuscany, where the bread is unsalted and goes stale in about three minutes, this salad is practically the only use for it. (Sorry, Italians.) That being said, any rustic loaf – fresh or otherwise – is absolutely fine.
Feeds 4 as a main (alongside some cold chicken)
Half a medium-sized loaf of rustic Italian bread, cubed
3 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of salt and pepper
6 tbsp olive oil
4 handfuls of tomatoes (1-2 larger tomatoes per person, or a handful of smaller ones each)
1/2 small red onion
2 handfuls of pitted kalamata olives
Small bunch of fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 175C / 350F. Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking tray, and bake for 5 – 10 minutes or until crisp but not brown. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, add the vinegar, minced garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds and pulp into a bowl. Discard the watery pulp. Cut the tomatoes into strips and place in the vinaigrette bowl. Halve the cucumber lengthwise, then scoop out and discard the seeds and watery core. Slice the cucumber into half moons and add to the tomatoes. Thinly slice the red onion and add to the bowl. Add the olives and roughly tear in the basil leaves. Toss everything to combine.
Just before serving, add the crisped bread cubes and give everything a good stir. Shave in some parmesan to garnish – I like a vegetable peeler, but a coarse box grater is good too – and serve.