I meant to share these photos and this recipe a few weeks ago. My family and I went to our favorite organic farm and picked two big boxes of several varieties of heirloom tomatoes. They tasted like candy–actually better. And we ate them every day for two weeks.
My in-laws were visiting from the Netherlands, where you can’t get tomatoes like these–at least I could never find anything close to these when I lived there. We ate our hand-picked bounty with just a sprinkling of coarse-ground sea salt or served them in salads with a touch of balsamic vinegar to play off the incredible sweetness.
I also made panzanella, or bread salad, twice during my in-laws’ visit, because my father-in-law declared the salad to be “incredibly delicious,” and it’s always nice to please one’s father-in-law.
I realize tomatoes like these are no longer available in some parts of the United States and northern Europe. But since we’re still enjoying a blissful “Indian summer” here in Northern California, I figured I go ahead and share this simple and crowd-pleasing recipe.
1 loaf pain levain
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 lbs heirloom or roma tomatoes; sliced into halves or quarters depending on size
1 8 oz container fresh mozzarella balls (buffalo if you can get it)
1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 small red onion, sliced in quarter rounds (optional)
1 handful fresh basil leaves
1 shallot, finely minced
1/4 cup sherry vinegar (red wine vinegar is OK if you can’t find sherry)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to broil.
Slice the loaf of bread into 1-inch thick slices. Using a bread knife, cut some of the crust away–maybe 30 percent. Lay slices on a large baking sheet. Brush with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and a grind or two of pepper. Rub in the crushed garlic. Broil until edges begin to brown, about 30 seconds depending on your broiler. Do not burn! Slice the bread into 1-inch chunks, and toss into a large salad or mixing bowl.
Cut the mozzarella balls in half. Add to the bread. Add in the tomatoes and cucumbers (and red onion if using). Tear the basil leaves and add.
In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, vinegar, and mustard. Continue whisking while gently pouring in the olive oil. Season with salt (about 1/2 tsp) and pepper and adjust to your liking. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.
This salad is designed to be served at room temperature, but I think it’s best when the bread is still warm from the oven and still crusty in a few places.