America's Test Kitchen? We are big fans over here, huge fans in fact. I may even nominate Christopher Kimball for America's next mascot. He seems to have all the answers - what skillet to buy, how to boil and egg, bake the perfect cake, and make a bow tie look smart.
I recently borrowed The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook from the library next door. It has a really daunting 2,000 recipes to chose from but this panzanella is what caught my eye first. Most Vineyarders are jumping up and down because the August tomatoes are here in full force. So let's eat this basic, but perfectly executed, bread salad and make Mr. Kimball proud.
from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook
Note: The success of this recipe depends on high quality ingredients, including ripe, in-season tomatoes and fruity olive oil. Fresh basil is also a must. Your bread may vary in density, so you may not need the entire loaf for this recipe. If you use stale bread the bread croutons will taste like...stale bread.
1 (1-pound) loaf rustic Italian or French bread, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced thin (I left the skin on)
1 shallot, sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (I used more like 1/2 cup)
2. Gently toss tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Transfer to colander set over bowl; set aside to drain for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.