Panzanella for Two (non-traditional)

Serves 2

Tip: I almost always have homemade basic vinaigrette on hand in the refrigerator. I did when I made this hearty salad, but wanted the red wine vinegar kicked up just a little. I simply added that ingredient to my prepared vinaigrette making this recipe come together even more quickly. Simplify, simplify, simplify. 🙂

¼ lb (approx.) hearty sourdough or Italian bread (day old works better than fresh-baked)
4 oz fresh mozzarella (the soft stuff packed in water)
8-12 oz fresh, ripe Compari or sweet cherry tomatoes
1 fresh cucumber (only part is needed)
1 small red onion (only part is needed)
15 leaves fresh basil
1 cloves fresh garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ cup high-quality olive oil, divided

Wash and dry tomatoes, cucumber, onion, basil and garlic clove.
Quarter the Compari tomatoes (or cut cherry tomatoes in half).
Peel half of cucumber, remove seeds, cut into ½ inch dice; reserve other half for another use.
Very thinly slice about 2 Tbsp red onion; cut into small pieces; reserve remaining onion.
Remove mozzarella from water; cut into ½ inch cubes (approx).
Rough chop basil leaves.
Mince or crush garlic clove.
Remove most of crust from bread; cut into 1” cubes (approx); set aside.

Whisk together minced garlic, Dijon, red wine vinegar, sea salt & freshly ground pepper. Whisk in ¼ cup of the olive oil to made a simple vinaigrette.
Place cut tomatoes, cucumber and red onion in a medium-large bowl.
Heat a medium-large sauté pan to medium, add ¼ cup olive oil; toss in bread cubes and sauté, stirring occasionally until they are nicely toasted. (You could do this step in the oven if you prefer.) When finished, add the toasted bread cubes to the bowl with tomatoes, etc.
Drizzle with about ¾ of the vinaigrette; toss to coat. Add the basil. Add more dressing as needed and another dusting of freshly cracked black pepper if desired.

Serve at room temperature, like NOW!

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