I have just a few criteria for the perfect summertime salad. It needs to be quick and easy (nobody wants to be in the kitchen this time of the year), and it needs to use seasonal ingredients. It would be best if it were a crowd-pleaser for those impromptu get-togethers, which also means it needs to be economical. And, oh yeah, I want to be able to make it in advance.
Not that I’m picky, but I really feel the perfect summertime salad should be able to stand alone on those days when it’s too hot to eat a heavy meal, but (last rule I promise) it should also go well with other seasonal favorites like grilled chicken or fish when weather permits.
And finally, bonus points if the recipe includes leftovers so that I can help minimize food waste.
And bread salad does it all!
There are oodles of recipes for bread salad, but they all have two things in common: day-old bread and fresh, juicy tomatoes. It sounds like it would be a bland, soggy mess, but it isn’t. The bread is first toasted so it ends up kinda “crunchewy.” Once you add crisp veggies (cucumber and onion are popular choices), fresh herbs and vinaigrette, you have the makings for an incredibly satisfying and perfect summer salad.
Firm-textured or crusty bread, like French, Italian or sourdough work best; whole grain and gluten-free versions are perfectly acceptable if that’s your preference. And the tomatoes, which are the real star of the show, need to be at peak ripeness.
Made with loads of fresh basil, sweet bell peppers and olive oil, the classic Italian bread salad, panzanella, is pretty hard to beat. But fattoush, the Middle Eastern version, is a close second. It uses chunks of oven-toasted flatbread, mint and sumac for a lemony burst of flavor.
When you run across perfection, it’s only natural to spread the word. Add bread salad to your must-have summertime favorites, you won’t be sorry.
Looking for more ways to use leftover bread? Don’t toss it; make your own croutons. —Karen