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Panzanella - Tuscan Bread Salad

An easy to prepare summer salad and a good way of using your stale bread. Serve in a large shallow dish. You'll need a good, dense loaf of bread at least a day old. Considered a summer dish as the tomatoes and cucumber should be fresh and have that wholesome summer taste.

Quantities serve 4-6 

Ingredients

• 2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
• 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
• 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
• 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
• 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces with your hands
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
• 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 8 slices thick stale country style Italian bread, torn into bite-size pieces 

Preparation

1. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic and basil. Drizzle with the 1/2 cup olive oil and the 3 tablespoons vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss well.
2. Place half of the bread in a wide, shallow bowl. If the bread is quite stale and dry, you should first spoon a few tablespoons of water over the bread and let it soak up some of the water, then squeeze out all of the water and place the bread in a different bowl before proceeding.
3. Spoon half of the tomato mixture over the bread. Layer the remaining bread on top and then the remaining tomato mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until serving time. Just before serving, toss the salad and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. At this point the bread should have absorbed the water from the tomatoes and be moist. If the bread seems dry for some reason, add a little olive oil and toss well.
Serve immediately.