PANZANELLA (Tuscan bread and tomato salad, for four)

1/3 cup red balsamic vinegar

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 5 cups), coarsely chopped (mix many varieties – plum, cherry, yellow, red, sun-dried)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces

8 ounces Italian bread, sliced about ¼ inch thick

  1. Pour vinegar into a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Mix together the tomatoes, onion and basil and toss with enough of the dressing to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper.  (Salad can be made to this point 8 hours in advance and chilled, covered.  Let stand for 1 hour at room temperature before proceeding).
  3. Preheat oven to 350*. Place Italian bread in a single layer on a jelly roll pan and toast for 10 minutes.  Break into rough chunks and divide among salad plates.   Spoon tomato mixture over the bread and serve immediately.

adapted from Bon Appetit, May, 2000

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