Tomato, Basil, and Cucumber Panzanella with Grated Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette

Active Time: 45 MINTotal Time55 MIN
Yield: Serves : 4 to 6

This summer blockbuster panzanella from Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, pairs oven-roasted sourdough croutons with juicy ripe tomatoes, raw red onion, and crisp cucumbers. Grated tomato adds a gentle acidity and chunky texture to the vinaigrette, helping it cling to every bite. Staggering the addition of vinaigrette, vegetables, and croutons similarly protects their crunch, and also helps season the salad properly, allowing salt, acid, and oil to be added in stages, as needed. This panzanella is ultimately a deceptively simple salad, one that makes the most of beautiful ingredients and a little time.

Ingredients

CROUTONS

  • 1 (1-pound) day-old rustic or sourdough bread loaf
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

TOMATO VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar (such as Monari Federzoni)
  • 4 very ripe small tomatoes (about 1 pound)
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch of kosher salt

SALAD

  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 pounds Early Girl or other flavorful ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into bite-size pieces (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste, divided
  • 4 Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 16 fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

How to Make It

Step 1    Make the croutons

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove crust from bread, and discard or reserve for another use. Cut loaf into 1-inch-thick slices; cut slices into 1-inch-wide strips. Tear strips into 1-inch pieces, and toss with oil until evenly coated. Spread in an even layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake croutons on separate oven racks in preheated oven 8 minutes. Continue to bake until golden brown and crisp, 18 to 22 minutes, flipping croutons and rotating pans (top to bottom) often to ensure even browning. Remove croutons from baking sheets as they finish browning. Sprinkle croutons with kosher salt, and let cool in a single layer.

Step 2    Make the tomato vinaigrette

Stir together shallots, red wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar in a medium bowl; let stand 15 minutes. Cut tomatoes in half, and grate cut sides on large holes of a box grater until only skin remains. Discard skins. Set aside 1 cup tomato pulp. (Reserve remaining tomato pulp for another use.) Stir tomato pulp, oil, basil leaves, garlic, and kosher salt into vinegar mixture; let stand at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes. Remove and discard garlic. (Taste vinaigrette with a crouton or tomato slice, and adjust salt and acid as needed.) Set aside 1 1/4 cups vinaigrette; reserve remaining vinaigrette for another use.

Step 3    Make the salad

Toss together onion and vinegar in a small bowl; let stand 20 minutes. Set aside. Place half of croutons in a large salad bowl, and toss with 1/2 cup reserved vinaigrette. Place tomatoes on top of croutons, and season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (to encourage them to release some of their juices); let stand 10 minutes.

Step 4    

Remove onions from vinegar, reserving vinegar. Add onions, cucumbers, basil, and remaining croutons to bowl with tomatoes. Toss with reserved onion vinegar, remaining 3/4 cup reserved vinaigrette, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, adjusting amounts as desired. Divide salad evenly among 4 to 6 plates. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Make Ahead

Suggested Pairing

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