Makes 6 servings
This salad, traditionally called Panzanella, was developed by frugal Italian women as a practical and tasty use for day-old bread. For authentic flavor, use top-quality, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes and rustic bread. As the toasted bread cubes soak up some of the aromatic red wine vinaigrette, they soften to an appealing chewy texture. The salad is substantial enough to make a light meal on its own, or serve it as the first course for a rustic Italian meal.
3 cups thick-crusted Italian or French bread in ¾-inch cubes
1 pound (about 3) beefsteak tomatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch slices
¼-inch cup finely chopped red onion
¼-inch cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
¾ cup Sanviovese Vinaigrette
6 large leaves butterhead or Boston lettuce
Freshly ground pepper for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet; toast in the preheated oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp. Set aside to cool.
Toss together the remaining salad ingredients, except the lettuce leaves and garnish, in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Five minutes before serving, toss in the bread cubes.
Mound the salad atop one lettuce leaf on each plate and garnish with pepper.