Serves 6 to 8
One of the early episodes of Ciao Italia dealt with how to make traditional salads using slightly bitter greens like escarole and chicory. Since then, I have demonstrated a number of other salads, including bread salad, made with chunks of dense and slightly stale bread that had been soaked in vinegar and combined with wedges of juicy tomatoes and pungent basil leaves.
In the following version of bread salad, a loaf pan is used to create a molded, layered salad of red and yellow tomatoes and peppery arugula leaves. When the salad is unmolded, it makes a nice presentation for a summer dinner party.
Use the best-tasting tomatoes you can find, and good sandwich bread that will absorb the tomato juices and not crumble when cut. The salad is best made several hours before serving. For variation, top with a chiffonade of fried leeks, which give a complementary sweet taste and crunch.
Line an 8 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 5-inch loaf pan with a sheet of plastic wrap, leaving an overhang all around the mold. Set aside.
1/2 cup Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup cider or wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon finely minced oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a jar, shake well and set aside. The dressing can be made several days ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.
2 ounces arugola leaves, stemmed, washed, and dried and left whole
5 lengthwise 1/4 -inch-thick bread slices cut from a 1-pound-4-ounce loaf white bread
1 large (about 4 ounces) red beefsteak tomato, cut into thin rounds
1 large (about 4 ounces) yellow beefsteak tomato, cut into thin rounds
To prepare the filling and assemble the salad, make a design with a few of the arugula leaves in the bottom of the mold. Save the rest to place between the layers.
Trim the bread slices to fit neatly in the bread pan (about 7 1/2 x 4 inches if using the called-for bread pan). Place one of the bread slices over the arugula in the bottom of the bread pan. Brush the bread with some of the dressing. Make a layer of red tomato slices over the bread. Cut up a few slices to fill in any gaps along the sides. Brush the tomatoes with a little of the dressing. Place a layer of arugola leaves over the tomatoes and brush them with a little of the dressing. Lay a second bread slice over the arugula leaves and repeat brushing with the dressing. Add a layer of the yellow tomatoes, filling in any gaps with pieces of cut tomatoes and brush them with the dressing. Add another layer of arugola leaves and brush with a little of the dressing. Continue to make three more layers in the same manner, ending with a bread layer. Brush the top of the bread with any remaining dressing.
Cover the pan tightly with a piece of plastic wrap and bring the overhanging edges over the top. Press on the loaf with your hand to make sure the loaf is compacted and even with the top edges of the pan. Refrigerate the loaf for several hours.
Unwrap the top of the loaf and place a platter over the top and invert the loaf onto the platter. Remove the plastic wrap and discard it. Use a tomato knife to cut the loaf into slices. Serve immediately.
Tip: A tomato knife has a serrated blade that cuts tomatoes without tearing them. Tomato knives are available from kitchen and cutlery stores.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA - BRINGING ITALY HOME by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.
Want More Recipes? See My Latest Book:
Mary Ann returns to her family's humble beginnings to bring us a treasure trove of more than 200 time-honored recipes.
Buy it now from Amazon for just $24.00
A Testimonial From Mario Batali:
This collection epitomizes the tradition and love that goes into all of Mary Ann Esposito's cooking. Like her award-winning TV series, this book will live on for years with all of those who cook her delicious recipes. My kids love everything Mary Ann cooks!"