My cherry tomatoes have definitely passed their prime. I always feel a bit sad when a crop of something is nearing its end. However we are still getting a reasonable number of tomatoes (the vines closest to the glasshouse door seem to be the healthiest), and i still have ridiculous amounts of basil at my disposal. Co-incidentally, just before i went away i came across two recipes for panzanella, a classic Florentine bread and tomato salad which incorporates lashings of basil.
One recipe was in an old (Jan 2012) NZ House and Garden magazine; the other was in one of the books my sister-in-law passed on to me when she cleaned out her cookbook shelf. It is called "Delicious. Quick Smart Cook" by Valli Little. The main differences between the recipes were that Little includes roasted red capsicum where the House and Garden recipe uses cucumber; Little toasts her sourdough while House and Garden does not toast their 'day-old ciabatta', and the 'Delicious' recipe also included buffalo mozarella or bocconcini cheese, while House and Garden included no cheese at all.
Normally i would go for the non expensive-cheese option, or maybe substitute some haloumi or feta for the expensive cheese, but since it is the end of the season, and i thought i could make this salad as a one-dish main meal for myself and the husband, i decided to pull out the stops and get some fancy cheese (if you are wanting a vegan recipe, obviously you can just omit the cheese). Actually i was surprised to find that bocconcini is not actually all that expensive (the buffalo mozarella was more so), and not having tried bocconcini i decided to give it a go. To be honest, i was a little disappointed - it added a certain texture to the dish, but extremely little in the way of taste. Next time i make this dish i will probably not bother with the cheese.
I liked the sound (and the look of the picture) of the toasted sourdough, so went that way. The Easy No-Knead Bread recipe (April 29th 2017) makes a perfect bread for using in this salad, although i have to admit i cheated and used a bought sourdough.
Since i had cucumber in the fridge i used that part of the House and Garden recipe instead of roasted red capsicum, since i would have had to buy the capsicum. My glasshouse capsicums have only a faint tinge of orange at this stage and will probably turn red while i'm away on my next trip. Roasted red capsicum sounds very nice, but as i am also a fan of the cucumber i'd almost be tempted to include both if i had them available.
Finally, Little's recipe gets the thumbs up from me because it uses a 'bunch of basil' (and i'm reading that as a BIG bunch of basil!) compared to House and Garden's 'good handful of basil'. After all, half the point of my making this dish is to make good use of my forest of basil.
I'll give you the 'Delicious' version of the recipe, but please remember that as with all salads (and many other dishes also!) you can omit and substitute to suit your circumstances.
From Valli Little's book "Delcious. Quick smart cook"
1/2 sourdough loaf, torn into 2.5 cm chunks (to give 5 cups)
100 ml olive oil
1 (big!) bunch basil, leaves picked
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 red capsicums, roasted and cut into strips
200g buffalo mozarella or bocconcini, torn into pieces (optional)
250g cherry tomatoes
1 cup (150g) pitted kalamata olives
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius
Toss the bread in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Place on a baking tray and bake until golden.
Meanwhile, finely chop 1 cup of basil leaves, reserving the remaining leaves to garnish. Combine with the garlic, vinegar and remaining oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Combine the croutons and all the remaining ingerdients in a bowl and toss well with the dressing. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with the reserved basil leaves. Set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.