Source: Kathleen Weber, Della Fattoria
Now that you’re baking bread like crazy, you need some creative and delicious ideas for using up your leftovers. There are many ways to make this Italian tomato-bread salad; Italians are masters at leftover bread recipes. Tuscans use untoasted stale bread torn into chunks and hydrated with the tomatoes’ juices and olive oil. I prefer making it with Crouton Rags. The croutons offer some extra flavor and, mainly, a little crunch. I like croutons made from a Polenta Bâtard for this recipe, but you could use a Pain de Campagne Bâtard, a Semolina Oval Loaf, or even a Traditional (Sweet) Baguette.
This salad should only be made with ripe, full-flavored tomatoes. You can use cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, or any combination of vine-ripened. If you don’t grow tomatoes yourself, head to your local farmers market.
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into large chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
15 to 20 medium basil leaves, torn
An 8-ounce ball of fresh mozzarella
2 cups Crouton Rags (recipe below)
Arugula, baby spinach, and baby romaine (as much or as little as you want)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1. Place the tomatoes in a wide salad bowl, drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt. Toss with your hands to be sure the oil and salt are evenly distributed. Add the shallots and basil, toss again, and let sit for about 5 minutes.
2. Tear the mozzarella into bite-sized pieces and add to the tomato mixture. Add about two-thirds of the croutons and toss to mix. Scatter the arugula, spinach, and romaine over the top, then sprinkle with (in this order) olive oil, salt and pepper, and the vinegar. Toss well.
3. Taste for seasoning, scatter the rest of the croutons over the top, and serve. The salad is best when just made; otherwise the croutons start to soften.
Makes a generous 3 cups
Half a large or 1 medium Polenta Bâtard, preferably day-old, but fresh is fine (see recipe in Della Fattoria Bread or purchase at the farmers market)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Use your fingers to tear out irregular tufts of bread.
2. Heat a generous film of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to it, then add the bread in a single layer (toasting in batches if needed). Cook, tossing or stirring the croutons occasionally and adjusting the heat to keep them from getting too dark, until they have a nice golden color, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels.
The croutons are best the day they are made.
Excerpted from Della Fattoria Bread by Kathleen Weber (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Ed Anderson.