I love charred bread, but I haven’t always. When I was younger, my dad ate all the family reject burnt food. Overdone toast, accidentally burnt pancakes, cookies we left in the oven too long… my sister and I had a preference toward underdone and doughy food, so whatever we messed up and overcooked, we’d pile on a plate for my dad. And he’d always say “this is the best kind.”
The first time I put burnt toast on a plate for Jack, he looked at me and said “what’s this, am I your dad now?” I had just always assumed that burnt food equalled man food. So over time, I selflessly became the eater of the black toast… not quite as black as my dad would eat, but I’ve come to love bread with a nice deep char. Especially in a salad like this.
Toasty, garlicky bread cubes kick up your average panzanella… that char offers such a delightful contrast to the juicy tomatoes, sweet basil, and fruity olive oil.
Make it a full meal by topping it with a poached egg.
- 1 small red onion, sliced thin
- Half loaf day-old ciabatta bread
- ½ garlic clove
- 1½ cups cherry and/or pear tomatoes, sliced in half
- ½ cup ricotta salata cheese, chopped into ½-inch cubes
- 5 or 6 basil leaves, torn
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- Champagne vinegar
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 2-4 eggs, for poaching (optional)
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white or red wine vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- In a small bowl, toss the red onion slices with a teaspoon or two of the champagne vinegar. Set aside while you work on the rest of the steps. This helps cut down on the harsh raw onion taste.
- Slice the bread into ½-inch thick slices, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a few pinches of salt, and grill both sides until lightly charred. Remove the bread from the grill and rub it with the sliced side of the garlic clove while the bread is still warm. Chop the bread into cubes and set aside.
- Make the dressing: in another small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and pinches of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes, tomatoes, onion slices, ricotta salata, and basil together with the dressing. Top with the toasted pine nuts and a few more red pepper flakes. Allow the salad to sit for 15-20 minutes for the dressing to soak into the bread. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Top plated servings with poached eggs if you wish.