Difficulty Rating: Easy-Medium (lots of chopping)
Healthy (but don't eat all the croutons)
Of course you know Ina Gartin. She is the sweet, soft-spoken"Barefoot Contessa" on Foodnet. com, who owns a catering shop/company and has written many beautiful cookbooks. All of her recipes are incredible. In fact, if you have to buy only one cookbook in your life other than an all-purpose cookbook (Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer etc.) I would buy her "Barefoot Contessa" cookbook.
This is her Italian "Panzanella" salad recipe. My daughter considers it one of her specialties. It combines the scent and flavor of basil, the color and succulence of peppers and tomatoes and the freshness and crunch of cucumber. Take a bite, savor the warm croutons soaked in vinaigrette. You are "en Italia".
3 T good olive oil
1 small French bread (not sourdough) cut into 1-inch cubes
1 t kosher salt (I used sea salt--what the heck)
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse, or English cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
(scoop out the cucumber seeds by running a spoon down the middle of lengthwise halved cuke)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in half and very thinly sliced (if you have a mandolin, use it)
20 large basil leaves, coarsley chopped (try Trader Joe's)
3 T capers, drained
Ingredients for Vinaigrette:
1 t finely minced garlic
1/2 t Dijon mustard
3 T champagne vinegar
1/2 C good olive oil ( you know, the one you got as a Christmas present from Susan)
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil and another sprinkling of salt halfway through if you feel it needs it (I did).
For the vinaigrette, whisk together the ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix the prepared vegetables and the drained capers. Add the croutons on top, and pour on the vinaigrette. Season liberally and to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the sald to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend. Makes enough for 6 people.