When you have ripe summer tomatoes, sweet and juicy watermelon, and leftover good bread, this flavorful bread salad makes the most of them. Day-old bread works best. We tend to see how much bread we have left over and work from there. Whether you have a handful of bread cubes, or several, this recipe works as long as you toss in the same amount of watermelon or tomato. It's also a good idea to cut the bread, watermelon, and tomatoes into chunks of similar size.
You can make this with just tomatoes and bread (a 2:1 ratio) or just watermelon and bread, but the combination of melon, tomatoes, and bread tastes best because of the contrasting flavors. Use whichever tomato smells and looks the best at your farmers' market; a combination of heirloom and halved cherry tomatoes works well.
Serves 8 to 10
1 garlic clove, halved
1/2-lb loaf levain or any good country-style bread
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 shallots, minced
pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 cups quartered tomatoes
3 cups cubed watermelon
3 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into chiffonade (ribbons)
8 oz Fromage Blanc, feta cheese, or ricotta salata
1 head romaine, butter lettuce, or other greens
- Preheat the oven to 350 F and (on a hot day as it was when we photographer this) set salad plates in the refrigerator to chill.
- Rub the cut side of the garlic clove all over the bread's crust, and then cut the bread into slices that are 3/4 inch thick. Cut the slices into cubes. (You should have about 3 cups of bread cubes. If you have more, that's fine. Just increase the amount of tomato and watermelon to match the bread measure.) Spread the bread cubes on an ungreased baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over the bread cubes and sprinkle them with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bake until the bread has hard corners, but still has some squish inside, about 10 minutes. (Don't let the bread turn dark, but let it get hard enough so it doesn't turn to mush when you mix the panzanella together.)
- While the bread toasts, pour both vinegars over the shallots in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper, stir, and then set the bowl aside to let the shallots macerate in the vinegar.
- Toss the tomato and watermelon in a large bowl and sprinkle on the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. When the bread cubes are toasted, toss them into the bowl with the tomatoes and watermelon. Whisk 2 tablespoons of the basil chiffonade and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into the vinegar and shallots and pour over the bread and fruit, scraping all the shallot and basil bits into the salad. Gently toss the salad. When the basil is evenly distributed, add the Fromage Blanc by the spoonful (or coarsely-chopped feta or ricotta salata), gently tossing to combine.
- Arrange lettuce around the platter as a garnish. Finish with a sprinkle of basil chiffonade before serving.