Traditionally associated with Toscana, bread salad was, historically, a practical way to make use of bread that had hardened with age. The bread was soaked in water and vinegar to soften, tossed with whatever vegetables were on hand, and a protein, if there was any. Featuring tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and basil, this is a summer garden recipe, but bread salads needn’t be confined to that season. The salad is also a feature of Campanian cuisine, where olives, peppers, anchovies and garlic are added.
350 grams (12 ounces) day-old country bread (see Note), cut into small cubes (2 cups)
130 milliliters (1/2 cup) red wine vinegar
4 scallions, sliced into thin rounds
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
1 yellow or red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
3 tomatoes, seeded and sliced
20 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
8 to 10 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped, optional
180 grams (3 ounces) canned tuna, packed in oil, optional (See Note)
90 milliliters (6 tablespoons) olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 grams (2 teaspoons) chopped marjoram
- In a bowl, soak the bread in 65 milliliters (1/4 cup) of the vinegar, mixed with enough water to cover, for about 2 minutes.
- Squeeze the bread dry, and place it in another bowl with the vegetables, basil, and anchovies and tuna, if using.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, the remaining 65 milliliters vinegar (1/4 cup), and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the bread and vegetable mixture and toss. Let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Stir, and serve sprinkled with the marjoram.
- If using fresh bread, toast it in a 149°C (300°F) oven until dry but not brown.
- Use the best possible quality tuna. Ventresca is the meat from the tuna belly, preserved in oil and recognized for its soft texture and delicate flavor.
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