I love the tomatoes at the Strathcona Farmer's Market. We buy probably 3 pounds every weekend from April to September. They look so nice and taste so fresh, I have such trouble resisting. What better to complement these gorgeous fresh tomatoes, than some tender, fresh basil, also from the Farmer's Market?
It is precisely because I love these tomatoes (and the basil is SO fantastic looking right now) that decided to make the Pappa Al Pomodoro - a Tuscan cooked tomato and bread soup for the "stale bread" edition of IMBB. I'd been contemplating making it since I received a copy of the Silver Spoon for Christmas, so we went off this morning to buy some of those gorgeous tomatoes and basil. When I got them home, I couldn't bear the thought of cooking them - I much prefer the tart flavour of these perfect fresh tomatoes to cooked. Besides, I bought gorgeous yellow, orange and red ones and cooking them would have blended their beautiful bright colours beyond recognition.
So I ended up using the ingredients one would usually use for Pappa Al Pomodoro to make a salad instead. Of course I added a couple of special touches, which I think worked pretty darn well. I had to stop Cakes licking the bowl. I can see this becoming a favourite in our house. It's light and tangy and refreshing. The fried ciabatta soaks up the gorgeous tomato juices without getting mushy or falling apart, lending it a meatier texture than most Panzanellas. This makes a great lunch all on its own. It'd be great for company because you can make it in advance and just let it marinate away for a few hours. It would also make an excellent starter for a meal of roasted or grilled beef.
Lex's really good Italian bread and tomato salad
Serves 4 as a light main
80 ml (1/3 cup) good quality olive oil
3 large cloves garlic minced
300 grams day-old ciabatta, sliced into large cubes (I used 1 + 1/2 individual sized ciabattas from the Italian Centre Shop)
650 -700 grams (1 + 1/2 pounds) ripe red, orange and yellow tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or other good quality grey sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 50 ml)
1 teaspoon minced lemon rind
3/4 loosely-packed cup fresh basil
30 grams parmigianno reggiano, shaved
In a large stir-fry pan, heat the oil over medium - low heat. Toss in 2/3 of the garlic and slowly cook in the oil until golden. With a slotted spoon, transfer the golden garlic to a large mixing bowl. Increase the heat under the oil to just shy of high. When the oil is quit hot but not smoking, add the bread. Turn the heat down to medium-high and stir-fry the bread until it is well browned and the oil has been absorbed, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes coarsely and add to the bowl with the cooked garlic. Add the remaining fresh garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and rind. Stir the mixture gently to encourage the salt to draw juice from the tomatoes. When the bread is nicely browned, stir it through as well. Allow it to marinate for 30 minutes to several hours. 10 minuted before serving, chop the basil up very roughly and stir it through. Stir through all but a few (reserved for garnish) of the Parmesan shavings.
Spoon into 4 low soup plates and top with reserved Parmesan shavings.