Bread Salad (Panzanella)
I put this together last night using ingredients acquired at this weekend's farmers market. Quantities aren't as exact as I'd like, since I was mostly making it up as I went along. I made a sherry vinaigrette to go along with it, but I think a balsamic would also be good if not better.
1 day-old baguette, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled/seeded/salted/rinsed, quartered and cut into 1/2" slices
1 small red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
25-ish basil leaves, torn up into quarters or sixths
Heat about 1/3 cup of the olive oil over medium-low heat (you'll want to use a large pan). Add the bread cubes, stir them around, and sprinkle them with salt. Keep stirring them every few minutes until they're toasted light-med brown, then take them off the heat.
In the meantime, toss all the other ingredients together in a large salad bowl. When the bread is done toasting, put that in too, then pour the vinaigrette over the whole thing and mix it together well.
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and quartered
1/2 tsp salt
I used my immersion blender for this; it would also be easy enough to do with a food processor. Put everything in a bowl together except the olive oil, and blend well. Add in the olive oil a little at a time while you continue blending. I used most, but not all (maybe all but 2-3 tablespoons) of the dressing recipe on the salad.
I've never made it with mozza. Nice thought! A little shaved fennel is nice in it too.
Love the idea of toasting the bread crumbs. I just tear the bread (I like ciabatta) for a rustic look and let it go completely stale so it really absorbs the vinaigrette. But toasting sounds like it would accomplish the same thing and add another dimension as well.
Remember to let it have a nice rest to soften up and let the flavors meld.