(Italian Bread Salad)
Five different people will give you five different ways to prepare this Italian favorite; this way is my way and the one I took from Giada DeLaurentis on Food TV, mostly because I love the freshness!
Serves 6

1/4 cup drained capers
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
12 ounces ciabatta or other country-style white bread, 2 to3 days old
9 ripe tomatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds total), cored and scored on the bottom
2 tablespoons plus 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 cup drained roasted red bell pepper strips
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

Soak the capers in 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a small bowl for 10 minutes. Drain.

Cut the crust off of the bread. Cut into 2-inch slices and grill, drizzling about 2 tablespoons of olive oil on both sides of the bread. Once grilled, cut or tear bread into 1 inch cubes and set aside.

Submerge the tomatoes into a large saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl of ice water to cool slightly. Using a small sharp paring knife, peel off the tomato skins. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk 2/3 cup of oil, 1/4 cup of vinegar, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the bread cubes, tomatoes, and basil; toss to combine.

Transfer half of the bread mixture to a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish.

Arrange half of the roasted peppers, drained capers, and olives over the bread mixture. Repeat layering with the remaining bread mixture, then the remaining roasted peppers, capers, and olives. Cover the salad and let stand at room temperature for flavors to blend, at least 1 hour.

Garnish with the basil sprigs and serve.

Copyright 2001 Carol Stevens, Shaboom's Kitchen, All Rights Reserved