September offers one last chance to savor the sun-drenched flavors of locally grown tomatoes and bell peppers. Here, this colorful produce is featured in an aromatic bread salad, perfumed with chopped fresh basil and enlivened with capers. For a heartier version, add chunks of roasted chicken.
1/2 loaf sturdy sourdough or ciabatta-style bread
11/2 cups small, ripe cherry tomatoes
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into small dice
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon jarred capers, drained
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
1â€“2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Remove the crust from the half loaf of bread and discard. Cut or tear the bread into 1-inch pieces and place on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the outside of the bread pieces feels crispy but the interior still is tender. Set aside.
Meanwhile, halve the cherry tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Add the diced pepper and Parmesan to bowl. Roughly chop the basil and add to the bowl along with the capers, onion and toasted bread.
In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mustard. Drizzle dressing over bread salad and toss well. Let mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes, toss again, then season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main course