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Bread Salad with Charred Tomatoes, Cucumber and Olives

Layering pungent, bitter and salty ingredients is a great way to add dimension to vegetable dishes. Kalamata olives offer all three qualities, which makes them the perfect match for the smoky-sweet charred tomatoes, herbal-tinged cucumber and crusty bread cubes in this creative summer salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 loaf (about 8 oz.) coarse country Italian bread such as
      pugliese
  • 3 or 4 large ripe tomatoes, about 2 1/2 lb. total, preferably a
      mixture of colors
  • 1 small English cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup pitted and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh basil, torn into small pieces

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375°F.

Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Lightly toast in the oven until the cubes are just dry and very light brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the cubes from the sheet.

Preheat the broiler. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the tomatoes on the prepared sheet. Broil until the skins begin to char and blacken, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the tomatoes over and broil for 2 to 3 minutes more. Let cool.

Remove and discard any loose skin from the tomatoes (it’s fine if a few charred bits of skin remain), then coarsely chop. Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl.

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Cut the halves crosswise into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Alternatively, cut the whole cucumber crosswise into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Add to the bowl with the tomatoes. Add the onion, olives, olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and stir well to mix. Let stand at room temperature for up to 1 hour to blend the flavors.

Just before serving, add the toasted bread cubes to the salad and toss gently. Add the basil, toss gently and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Vegetable of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2012).