Any tomato salad depends on one thing: perfectly ripe, height of summer tomatoes. Cherry or grape tomatoes might be fine in a tossed salad during the winter, but just don’t have either the strength of flavor or the moisture for a salad like this. Like the famous Tuscan bread salad, panzanella, the bread here is moistened with a little water first. Letting the salad stand for an hour or so both develops the flavor and further moistens the bread, so it’s perfect to prepare in advance to serve to guests. The recipe comes from my dear friend Anna Amandolara Nurse, whose family comes from the area near Bari in Apulia.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1/2 cup cold tap water
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, rinsed, stemmed, and diced
1 medium red onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced from root to stem end
1/3 cup pitted Gaeta olives, quartered
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- If the bread is very fresh, spread out the cubes on a couple of jellyroll pans and let them dry at room temperature for half a day. Or bake the bread cubes at 300˚F until dry but not toasted, about 15 minutes, stirring them up once or twice while they’re baking and cool before using.
- Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with the water, using a large rubber spatula to fold it through and moisten all the bread. Let the bread rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Add the tomatoes, onion, and olives. Use a large rubber spatula to fold everything together.
- Sprinkle with the oregano, oil, and salt, and fold again. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the salad rest at a cool room temperature until you’re ready to serve it, but no more than a couple of hours.
- When you’re ready to serve the salad, mound it on a flat platter. This is excellent as a first course, with a selection on antipasti, or as an accompaniment to simply cooked meat or fish.