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Panzanella

I made this completely on a whim. Some friends of ours, Tasha and Rich, came over for dinner the other night and I had no idea what to make for them. It had to be great because Marcus, being the wonderful husband he is, brags so much about my cooking. It puts a girl on the spot when she has to live up to those fine, loving words. I have been eying this recipe for quite sometime, but my concerns were that Marc is never going to accept this as a side dish and seriously? another salad I might die from starvation. Alas, this is another to chalk up to my serious lack of saladary expertise. Yes, saladary is a word, it’s my word. Panzanella, which comes to me from Barefoot Contessa is absolutely divine. I am awful at describing flavors, but the combination of the onions, basil, pepper, oil and vinaigrette sent my taste buds a flarin. Panzanella is so easy to make and a great side dish for the spring or summer. The idea is to add whatever it is you like, olives would be really good in this too.

Panzanella

3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained (optional)

Vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

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