Panzanella recipes benefit from the liquid exuded by the tomatoes, so we tossed them with some salt and let them drain in a colander until they’d shed a good bit of juice. Using that juice in our Italian Bread Salad’s dressing boosted its fresh flavor. Staling the bread in the oven until it turned golden brown gave our panzanella a nutty flavor and allowed the dressing to lightly saturate the pieces of bread before we stirred in the tomatoes.
6 cups rustic Italian or French bread, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (1/2 to 1 pound)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced thin
1 shallot, sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
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Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss bread pieces with 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt; arrange bread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Toast bread pieces until just starting to turn light golden, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Gently toss tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Transfer to colander and set over bowl; set aside to drain for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Whisk remaining 6 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper into reserved tomato juices. Add bread pieces, toss to coat, and let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Add tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, and basil to bowl with bread pieces and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.
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