There are so many ways to pair bread and tomatoes, and that's a major part of what I'm exploring this week as we ease into tomato season here in New York. You can make the southern classic, tomato and mayonnaise sandwich. You can make bruschetta. You can rub a fresh tomato on toasted bread. You can even put the two together and turn them into a soup.

But maybe the most direct way to highlight both tomatoes and good bread is a classic panzanella. This dish is an Italian bread salad, which might sound perplexing, but trust me it's absolutely divine. I'd go so far as to say this might be my ideal dish. It's tangy and crunchy and savory and bright and fresh, all those things summery Mediterranean food always gets perfectly. If you have good heirloom tomatoes, like the ones I got from my local farmers market, you really can't go wrong. The genius here lies in making a vinaigrette from the tomato juice, and pre-toasting the bread so that each bite is slightly soaked and slightly crunchy. It's absolutely brilliant and completely addictive. 

Classic Panzanella by Kenji Lopez, originally posted on Serious Eats 

  • 2 1/2 pounds mixed tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 3/4 pound ciabatta or rustic sourdough bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (about 6 cups bread cubes)
  • 10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
  1. Place tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Toss to coat. Set aside at room temperature to drain, tossing occasionally, while you toast the bread. Drain for a minimum of 15 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to center position. In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crisp and firm but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

  3. Remove colander with tomatoes from bowl with tomato juice. Place colander with tomatoes in the sink. Add shallot, garlic, mustard, and vinegar to the bowl with tomato juice. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

  4. Combine toasted bread, tomatoes, and dressing in a large bowl. Add basil leaves. Toss everything to coat and season with salt and pepper. Let rest for 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until dressing is completely absorbed by bread.