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Tomatoes, crusty bread are great duo

Tomatoes and crusty bread are made for each other. Tomatoes are coming to an end in our summer heat, but you can still buy some nice ones at the markets.

There is nothing like the sweet juice of a good tomato soaking into a good piece of bread. A tomato and bread salad is a great main course for lunch, a light supper, or a sensational side. You can make bread salads with different types of breads and one of my favorite is the faffoush salad made with pita bread. There are so many different things you can add to these bread salads, that you never have to make the same one twice.

Just a few thigs to remember when preparing bread salads. Toast your bread first. Let cool before cutting into bite size pieces. Use a variety of tomatoes, and salt for a few minutes before adding the other ingredients. Oil and vinegar is the classic dressing but some garlic is good because it gives the flavor a pop. You can change the type of vinegars and boost flavors by adding shallots, onions, and anchovies.

Fresh herbs are always good to add to the bread salad. Whatever is in the garden is good, but basil, parsley, mint and cilantro are always winners. Bonus ingredients like olives, roasted red peppers, capers, thinly sliced fennel, cucumber, salad greens, beans, and cheeses like feta and mozzarella are good additions. Just use your imagination.

From ‘Fine Cooking’ August/September 2017.

Basic Tomato and Bread Salad

Serves 6-8

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed

1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 ½ tsp. minced garlic

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup thinly sliced shallot

8 oz. rustic Italian bread, sliced ¾ to 1-inchthick

1 1/3 lb. ripe beefsteak tomatoes

1 lb. ripe tomatoes of your choice

½ cup torn fresh basil

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the shallot and stir to combine.

Heat a broiler or gas or charcoal grill to medium high. Brush the bread slices with olive oil on both sides and season slightly with salt. Broil or grill the bread, flipping once, until nicely toasted, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer the bread to a cutting board, then tear or cut in into ¾-inch to 1-inch pieces.

Cut the tomatoes into pieces from ¾ inch to 1 inch, and transfer to a large bowl. Toss the tomatoes with the dressing and a good pinch of salt, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Toss the tomatoes with the bread, basil, mint, sun-dried tomatoes, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fattoush-ish Bread Salad

Serves 6-8

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed

1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. minced garlic

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

8 oz. pita bread or other flatbread, such as naan

1 ¼ lb. ripe beefsteak tomatoes

1 lb. ripe tomatoes of your choice

1 small cucumber; peeled, seeded, and diced (about 1 cup)

3 oz. feta, crumbled (about 1 cup)

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup pitted black or green olives, quartered lengthwise

2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh oregano

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the onion and stir to combine.

Brush the pita with olive oil on both sides and grill or broil the bread, flipping once, until nicely toasted, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board, then cut or tear into 3/4-to-1 inch pieces.

Cut the tomatoes into pieces from ¾ to 1 inch, and transfer to a large bowl. Toss the tomatoes with the dressing and a good pinch of salt, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Toss the bread, cucumber, feta, mint, parsley leaves, and oregano with the tomatoes. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.