It’s the first day of school! Beck left this morning to great fanfare and WAHHHHH MY BABY and also guilt because honestly who needs school at age two and a half so if she stop school after high school that’s still sixteen more years of freaking school and also I’M FREE and also thirty weeks pregnant today so not free for long, sucker, and I’m hungry.
It’s also 90 degrees here because of course it is. Climate change is a myth.
But we may as well soak it up, right? Even people who hate summer love summer; the nostalgia of freedom from school and longer days, more daylight, and freaking perfect fresh summer produce. Spring and fall greens and gourds are just nothing compared to tomatoes, corn, watermelon, and fresh herbs, so I’m going with it as long as the weather stays this warm. It’s my payment for excessive heat while pregnant – watermelon.
So today we’re using tomatoes and basil that are still everywhere in panzanella, aka bread salad, aka of course we should have bread in our salad. The dressing base is actually juice from the tomatoes, then we have salt, sugar, and shallot to round out the most delicious dressing. The bread gets crispy in the oven while bacon gets crispy on the stove, and honestly by the time we factor in the bacon and bread we should be just eating this for breakfast, shallot breath be damned.
I’m not above it.
You need! Tomatoes. Any kind you like, lots of them. I like a variety of colors because they’re so pretty, but use any tomatoes. Then bacon and bread for crunch and flavor, and olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, shallot for the dressing. Basil for summer.
First, cut the tomatoes into chunks and place them in a colander over a bowl with salt and sugar. This will cause some of the juices to release and make the base for our dressing. Stir the tomatoes every few minutes to let any juices drip into the bowl, and let the tomatoes sit for about 30 minutes.
While the tomatoes are wilting, roast the bread! Cut it into cubes, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and toss it with olive oil.
Roast the bread cubes for 30-40 minutes until they’re slightly browned but not overly hard or dark at the edges – this will depend on the bread you use as well.
At some point during this wilting and roasting, crisp the bacon in a skillet and chop or crumble it up. I like chewy-ish bacon, but cook it however you like! When you remove the bacon from the skillet, reserve a tablespoon of the bacon fat for the dressing. Pour it right into the bowl catching the tomato juice so it doesn’t make a mess.
When the tomatoes have released a good amount of liquid (1/4 cup is ideal, but don’t fret if it’s slightly less than that), make the dressing. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, shallot, bacon fat, and the rest of the sugar with the tomato juice that has collected in the bottom of the bowl. Whisk the dressing to dissolve the sugar, and taste for seasoning: add a few pinches of salt and pepper until it’s very flavorful.
When the bread, tomatoes, bacon, and dressing are prepped, pour about half of the dressing over all of the ingredients. Stir everything to coat, and let the salad sit for 20 minutes or so to soften the bread without allowing it to become mushy. The 20-30 minute time frame is perfect for soaking, less than that can yield a super crunchy salad.
Right before serving, taste the salad and add a bit more dressing or some sprinkles of salt and pepper if you’d like.
I love this with baby kale or other greens to up the health/whole meal factor AND have an excuse to eat more of the dressing.
And now is the portion of the blog post where I tell you JUST HOW DELICIOUS THIS IS and implore you to MAKE IT SOON PLEASE.
Because…obviously. That’s how it works, and it IS super duper yummy. I like the word yummy for things like this – comforting items, fresh items, crunchy + salty + sweet from the dressing. I know sugar is the absolute devil and ruining us all, but I promise you that the two teaspoons in the dressing WON’T pickle your insides but they WILL make a huge difference in the flavor of the dressing, so….use it. Or don’t, but it’s better with the sugar.
For lunch, for dinner, for Labor Day, for all of the times. Enjoy this!
- 5 medium ripe tomatoes
- 1/2 baguette, cut into cubes (about 6 cups cubed bread)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled or chopped
- 2 sprigs basil - about 1/2 cup leaves, torn
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon bacon fat, reserved from cooking the bacon
Dice the tomatoes and place them in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar and allow to wilt and release their juices for about 30 minutes while you make the rest of the salad.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and lots of salt and pepper. Bake for 30-40 minutes until toasted but not overly hard.
When the tomatoes have wilted, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, remaining sugar, shallot, and bacon fat with 1/4 cup of the juices from the tomatoes. If you have slightly less don't worry, the dressing will still be delicious. Taste the dressing and add more salt to your preference.
20 minutes before serving, combine the bread cubes, tomatoes, bacon, and basil leaves with about half of the dressing. Toss to coat, and let the salad sit to soften the bread slightly.
Serve with extra dressing for drizzling and greens on the side, if you'd like. Enjoy!