This recipe is a great way to turn stale, leftover bread into a delicious and different side dish. Over the past year or so, Dan has been experimenting with making homemade bread (recipe to come, once he has perfected it.) During one of his more prolific experiments, we had a couple of baguettes that we didn’t get a chance to eat before they started to get stale. Rather than throw them out, we consulted one of our favorite recipe sites, Epicurious, for a recipe with bread as one of the main ingredients. We discovered this bread salad recipe, which is similar to a panzanella we have previously enjoyed, but is a little less hearty and therefore more suitable as a side dish rather than a main course. It was really easy to throw together, incorporating many ingredients that we almost always have on hand: bread, cucumber, celery, green onions, Kalamata olives, parsley, basil, good olive oil and red wine vinegar. The original recipe also calls for capers, but we left them out because I don’t really like them (they make me think of mutant peas.) Feel free to add capers if you like them — they probably add a nice salty flavor. That’s another thing we like about this fresh and easy side dish — as good as the original recipe is, you can add (or subtract) whatever herbs, veggies and seasonings you prefer.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, then cut the bread into small cubes and spread them out onto a cookie sheet. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the bread, then bake in the oven, turning once, until the bread cubes get lightly golden brown on both sides — about 20 minutes.
While the bread toasts, prepare the remaining salad ingredients. Peel and de-seed half of a cucumber (we prefer English cucumbers — less seeds and better taste), then cut the cucumber into thin half-moon slices.
Next, chop up the olives, celery, green onions (green parts only), basil and parsley.
When the bread is done, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool completely.
Whisk together about 1/3 cup good-quality olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar and generous pinches of salt and pepper for the dressing.
Add the bread to the other salad ingredients and toss them all together. Slowly add dressing and toss until the ingredients are lightly coated with the dressing (be careful not to over-dress, or the bread will get soggy.)
We served the salad with a fish dish, but it would go well with other types of protein as well. We like this salad a lot as an alternative to the usual garden salad, with extra croutons!