Tomato & Bread Salad

I can - and will (and maybe already have) go on and on about summer tomatoes.  Much of the country is probably all tomatoed out by now - but here in the Pacific Northwest we are just kicking it into gear.  We have had some smaller tomatoes ripe for the last month, but it's only in the last week or so that I am getting the really good, big slicing tomatoes.

Tomato bread salad is one of my very favorite things to make with the freshest and juiciest summer tomatoes.  I can't think of a better way to show off and savor the flavors of these ripe off the vine tomatoes.


The first step is to make homemade garlic croutons.  It's easier than it sounds.  For this one - I used a loaf of crusty homemade white bread.  I cut into thick slices and toast in a 375 - 400 degree oven until lightly browned.  Then I take whole cloves of garlic and rub the bread - the garlic melts and disintegrates into the bread, and the bread gets a wonderful garlicky flavor.  Then I cut the slices of bread into cubes, toss with some olive oil and salt, and spread them back on the cookie sheet to toast a little more until really crunchy and all over golden brown.

While the bread is toasting - cut  tomatoes into cubes.  I like to keep the pieces big so they hold their texture and shape as the salad is tossed.  And I love to be able to use a few different kinds or colors of tomatoes.  Chop up a bunch of fresh basil, and finely dice some more fresh garlic.  Toss the tomatoes, basil and garlic with some good olive oil and a little salt.  Quanties really depend on personal preference - I like a nice balance of tomatoes to bread, and I like a lot of garlic and a pretty good amount of salt.  You can also add a little finely diced red onion if you like.

When the croutons are done and a little cooled, toss with the tomato & basil mixture.  Taste for seasoning and maybe add a little more salt.  Then let it sit for a little while, stirring occasionally to make sure all the juices get mixed in.  The juice comes out of the tomatoes and soaks into the croutons.  It's just perfect when the croutons are mostly soaked, but still have just a bit of crunch left.  This is just so good.