Tomato Artichoke Ciabatta Salad
Serves 4 as a generous side
Warm up to a fresh taste of summer with this Italian-style salad that gets a surprising boost from a loaf of day old bread transformed into lemony, garlicky croutons; airy ciabatta bread makes for the most flavorful, delicate croutons, but any good country bread will do. The artichokes can be grilled and marinated in the dressing a day or more before assembling the salad, and the bread cubes can be toasted a day in advance too.
Tip: When juicy summer tomatoes are months away, use flavorful cherry tomatoes or small heirloom tomatoes.
8 to 12 ounce loaf ciabatta bread or similar crusty Italian bread, left out overnight to turn slightly state
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried crumbled basil
8 ounces artichoke hearts, packed in brine and well drained. If frozen, thaw completely and pat dry
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 pound red ripe tomatoes, core and seeds removed, diced into 1 inch pieces
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the bread into 1/2 inch cubes. In a mortar and pestle mash together the garlic and salt into a paste, then add to a large mixing bowl and whisk lemon juice, olive oil, and basil. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat with dressing, then spread the bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 12 to 14 minutes until cubes are toasted. Occasionally stir the bread cubes.
2. While the bread cubes are toasting, slice the artichokes into thin 1/4 inch pieces. Heat half of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Layer the artichokes in the hot pan and fry on one side for 3 minutes, then turn them over and fry another 2 to 3 minute or until the edges are just starting to turn golden, then remove from heat set aside. In a mortar and pestle mash together the garlic and salt into a paste, then add to a large mixing bowl and whisk vinegar, remaining olive oil, oregano, rosemary, and whisk to combine. Add the artichokes, capers, tomatoes, and the parsley. When the bread cubes are done toasting, add them to the bowl along with a few twist of freshly cracked pepper. Use salad tongs to toss everything with the dressing, making sure that all of the bread cubes has been moistened. Serve immediately.
3. If desired, prepare the toasted bread up to 2 days in advance and store in a tightly covered container; allow the cubes to cool completely before storing.