Susie Middleton, author, Fresh from the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories
This classic Mediterranean salad of juicy tomatoes and cucumbers, crusty bread and a garlicky, herby, feta cheese-y dressing makes a stunning and delicious summer dish that’s perfect for the beach or a picnic. It’s a great way to showcase heirloom tomatoes, too. I prefer to grill the bread here, but broiling works just fine, too. To turn this into a main dish, add chopped grilled shrimp.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the bread
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon good-quality sherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
6 (1-inch-thick) slices ciabatta or other airy artisan bread
2 to 2 1/4 pounds ripe, juicy tomatoes (a combo of all different size and color heirlooms is lovely)
1 medium cucumber
1/4 pound feta cheese, cut into small cubes
24 small Manzanilla (Spanish green olives) or Kalamata olives, smashed and pitted
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (white and light green parts)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small whole fresh herb leaves (basil, oregano and mint) and tiny herb blossoms if available
In a small bowl, combine the 3 tablespoons olive oil, the sherry vinegar, garlic and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Heat a gas grill to medium or a broiler to high. Brush the bread generously with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt. Put the slices directly on the grill grate or a few inches under the broiler element and cook until a light golden brown on the first side, about 1 minute. Flip and cook for 1 minute more until the other side is golden. Transfer the bread to a cutting board and cut into 3/4-inch cubes.
Cut the tomatoes into pieces all about the same size. (A rough guideline: Cut large tomatoes into 1-inch pieces; medium tomatoes into wedges; small tomatoes into quarters; very small tomatoes in half.) Peel the cucumber, trim the ends and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out with a spoon. Cut each piece in half again lengthwise (so that you have 4 long pieces); cut the pieces crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, olives, scallions, 1/4 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper and half of the herbs. Add the bread pieces and toss gently to combine. Drizzle the olive oil vinegar mixture over the salad and toss gently but thoroughly. Taste for salt and pepper. Let sit for 5 to 15 minutes to let the bread absorb some of the tomato juices, tossing once or twice. Turn out into a pretty, shallow serving bowl and garnish with the remaining herbs. Serves 8.