This week has had me deeply craving a cabin in the woods, or an escape to a lake my family would visit in New Hampshire during the summers when I was little. Memories of swimming to turtle rock, making paper out of things we found in the forrest, and baking hot pink cupcakes flash before me and I admit that my heart aches a little for summers like those.
But as memories evolve, I also recalled this galavant one of my close friends and I had through Italy many years back. On one of the afternoons between rushing from one place to another, with nearly no money left in our wallets, we stumbled on this little café and ordered the tomato soup (it was likely the cheapest thing on the menu). What came out was this rich tomato-y stew with a bread base and a pitcher of this incredibly spicy olive oil we were supposed to drizzle on top. The soup was studded with these big chunks of basil and honestly, even to this day we talk about how spectacular that soup was. This was also the first time in my life that I had tried olive oil that felt tannic and almost spicy and it changed the breadth of what olive oil meant to me.
At the start of my current vacation, I picked up a very fancy, and necessarily spicy, olive oil. With this ingredient on hand, I figured why not find a way to fold it into a fresh summer salad on such a hot and sunny day. I've landed on something between a classic Tuscan panzanella and a caprese salad. If you have super fancy tomatoes, this is the time to use them. If you simply have good summer red tomatoes, this will be super tasty as well (it's what I had).
This recipe started from Kenji's recipe on Serious Eats for a classic Panzanella salad, but as most things, evolved a bit.
250g ciabatta, cut into 1" pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
800g tomatoes, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 tsp sea salt
2 shallots, minced
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
15g fresh basil
1 burrata (preferably buffalo-milk based)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of flaky smoked salt (super optional)
Turn your oven on to 400°F (180°C fan-forced). Cut your bread into around 1" cubes - no need to be exact here. Place on a small baking ban and coat in the 2 tbsp of regular olive oil. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the bread is just barely golden brown. Then take out of the oven and let cool.
Give your tomatoes a chop - I cut the cherry and date tomatoes in half, and the larger ones I cut into 4 wedges. Place them into a colander, which is placed above a large bowl. Toss the tomatoes with the sea salt and let rest so the juices release into the bowl.
Mince the shallots and garlic and add them to the tomato juice bowl (it's ok to do this while the tomatoes are draining. Add the dijon mustard and the white wine vinegar to the bowl, give it a stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
While the tomatoes drain, clean up your workspace and slice the basil and add it into the dressing bowl.
Now that the tomatoes have drained, give the juicy-onion mixture a stir, season with salt and pepper. Toss in the bread cubes and coat well, you'll likely need to use your hands here. Then toss in the tomatoes and mix.
Plate the tomato-bread salad onto two plates. Top with hand-torn pieces of burrata and a drizzle of the really good extra virgin olive oil. You can top with some smoked flaky sea salt if you have it on hand, but if not, you'll still have an incredible summer salad for dinner.
Every Sunday evening, I send out a newsletter with the following week's dinner menu, and the seasonal produce featured. The newsletter is free, and I won't share or sell your email address.
If it turns out it's not the content you're looking for, you can easily unsubscribe with a link at the bottom of the email. This project was originally a way to wrap my head around the evolving seasonal produce in the supermarkets.
I'm so excited to share the journey and learn from you as I go along!
- Julia Feld