LUCY BURDETTE: If I've caught you at the right time, you might have tomatoes and basil left in your fall garden, but not a lot else. Anyway, that's our situation--and it's the perfect time to make Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad, otherwise known as panzanella.
There are tons of variations, so feel free to leave out an ingredient if you don't like it or adjust the quantities.
3-5 ripe tomatoes, chopped into chunks and mostly seeded
3-4 peppers, different colors preferably (I used one red, one yellow, and two small green), seeded and chopped into chunks
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, washed, seeded and chunked
20 or so basil leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons capers
About 6 cups of good bread, cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 cup vinaigrette (Mix 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, sugar, good French mustard in a small jar. Add a splash of water and shake until combined. Add 1/4 cup good olive oil and shake again. Add 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar, shake again.)
Wash, seed and chunk all the vegetables and combine them in a large bowl. Try to remove most of the seeds and juice from the tomatoes. Mix in basil and capers.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter and olive oil with the salt. Saute the bread cubes about 10 minutes or until crispy and brown. (Try not to eat too many of the croutons before you serve!) This is where I use up the ends and semi-stale pieces of bread in our freezer--we buy a nice loaf each week from the farmer's market and there's always a little left over.
Fold the croutons into the vegetables, add the vinaigrette, and toss gently. Serve after 15-30 minutes, giving the flavors time to mix and mingle.
Then sit back and accept the compliments!
Murder With Ganache, the fourth book in Lucy's Key West series, will be out in February 2014-chocolate for Valentine's day! You can preorder right here.
Lucy is the author of the Key West food critic mysteries, available wherever books are sold! You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.