Tomato, Mozzarella, and Bread Salad

Tomato, Mozzarella, and Bread Salad


Bread salad (panzanella) meets the tomato-and-cheese combo known as caprese.
TIME 45 minutes
MAKES 4 servings
½ pound Italian or French bread (about ½ loaf)
4 medium tomatoes
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
⅓ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves


Method
1 Heat the oven to 350°F. Cut the bread crosswise into slices about 1 inch thick. Put them on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, turning once or twice, until they are crisp and golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool and store if you like, tightly covered, for up to 2 days.

2 While the bread is toasting, core and roughly chop the tomatoes and put them and their juices in a large bowl. Add the mozzarella, oil, and vinegar; sprinkle with salt and lots of pepper and toss several times to combine well.

3 Fill a medium bowl with water, add the toasted bread, and soak until the pieces start to absorb some water and soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently squeeze the water out of the croutons and crumble them into the salad.

4 Toss well to combine the ingredients and let the salad sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Toss with the basil, taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Variations
  • Lebanese Bread Salad (Fattoush): Skip the mozzarella. Substitute four 6-inch pitas for the bread and cut each into 8 wedges. Add 1 chopped medium cucumber (peeled and seeded first if you like) and 1 cored, seeded, and chopped red bell pepper at the beginning of Step 2. Finish with chopped fresh parsley leaves instead of the basil in Step 4.

Tips
  • Fresh mozzarella is usually made into balls, not bricks or strings. It’s creamier and whiter than aged mozzarella, with a superior milky flavor. You can find packages of it in most supermarkets now, but if you have an Italian deli or grocery nearby, you may find super-fresh mozzarella that’s stored in water, like good feta cheese (itself a possible substitute in this salad).
  • For a heartier version, use whole grain bread.
  • For a crunchier salad, cut the bread slices into cubes before toasting and add them to the salad without soaking. After the resting time in Step 4, you might decide you need more oil.
  • For a hint of garlic, cut a clove in half and rub the cut side on the bread before toasting.

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