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Panzanella Salad of Mixed Tomatoes

With tomatoes in abundance right now, it’s the perfect time to make this Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes.  We make this in our Italian Long Lunch cooking class when tomatoes are at the height of their season, and it is always a winner.  There are a number of variations where ingredients such as onion or anchovies are added, but I like to make it simplistically with just the additional of fresh basil.  The success of this salad relies on the quality and variety of the tomatoes, so choose a selection of different types and colours. And like all Italian cooking, always use quality ingredients including good vinegar, the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford and fresh garlic and basil. As well as being utterly delicious, this salad is also a great way to use up stale bread (nothing is wasted in the Italian kitchen).

Ingredients (serves 4-6):
4 slices day-old sourdough bread
Olive oil for brushing
1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
600g mixed tomatoes, cut into wedges or halved if small
Good handful fresh basil leaves, torn
Dressing:
3 tablespoons quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon quality vinegar (balsamic, red wine, sherry, etc)
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Pinch of caster sugar
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:
1. For the dressing: place all dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake well.
2. Heat a chargrill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and cook 2 minutes each side or until toasted. Rub each side with the clove of garlic and tear into chunks. Place in a bowl together with the tomatoes and the torn basil leaves.
3. Pour over the dressing and toss. If time allows, allow to stand for 15 minutes for the flavours to mingle. Pile onto a platter or into a bowl and serve.

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