I am going to let you in on a little secret.
The secret is this.
Cookout season is coming, and inevitably you will be asked to bring something to said cook out and you will need a reprieve from all the side dishes bound together with mayonnaise and you will want to seem fancy and virtuous and be the person who brings real vegetables.
You should consider this here panzanella. First of all, praise shall come from thy people when they hear that you have made something with such a fancy Italian name for their humble summer cookout. Then they will look on it and recognize some of the best summer produce and they will grow even more fond of you.
The real secret though, the very very real secret truth, is that you get to be the one who brought the yummy salad, but also the one who gets to eat salad that is mostly croutons. Win.
Here's what you do.
slightly adapted from the Pioneer Woman
for the salad:
3 large, ripe tomatoes (or you can use heirlooms if you feel even fancier)
10 oz. container cherry or yellow sunburst tomatoes
1 large cucumber, sliced lengthwise
fresh basil leaves, torn into small bits or sliced into little ribbons
half a loaf of crusty French bread, preferably a day old *gasp*, cut into 1" cubes or torn
for the vinaigrette:
3/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (name that movie!)
Quarter the large tomatoes lengthwise, then roughly chop the quarters into little pyramids. Place in a large bowl and lightly salt. Taste test a few of the cherry tomatoes, smile lovingly at them, then cut them into halves and add them to the tomato bowl.
Now, cut the ends off the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise. Using a normal spoon, scrape the seeds out. Cute little cucumber boat! Thinly slice and add, along with the basil, to the tomato bowl. Let these sit in the fridge while you toast the bread cubes in a 250 degree oven and mix up the vinaigrette.
Another wonderful thing is that this salad is easily improvised. Want to switch out basil leaves for oregano? Do it! Add in a little bit of bocconcini mozzarella or drizzle it with balsamic reduction. Throw in some chocolate chips and coconut flakes! (don't ever do that.)
By now the bread is toasted and the vinaigrette is emulsified and the tomatoes are patiently waiting so now mix the bread cubes into the tomato bowl and drizzle everything with vinaigrette. You should have leftover vinaigrette (if not, you will have a very heavily dressed salad). Store the leftovers in a mason jar and drizzle it over everything. Cover and let chill for 30 minutes or so. Serve cold and eat with the people you love!