Panzanella Salad with Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

This flavorful salad is a wonderful way to use up the odds and ends from this week’s Niçoise.

½ loaf of crusty bread, sliced and cut into 1-inch cubes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, plus an additional 2 tablespoons to drizzle over salad
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
¼ cup Parmesan, broken into small chunks (optional)
1 pinch red pepper flakes (if desired)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons shallot, thinly sliced
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Heat a large heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat, adding 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. Once oil is hot, add bread cubes and toss to coat, toasting evenly on all sides and seasoning generously with salt and pepper, until brown. (Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to toast croutons in batches.)

2. Combine cherry tomatoes, olives, minced garlic, Parmesan and shallot in a large serving bowl. Add red pepper flakes and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add in bread croutons, toss, and allow to sit for 15 minutes for flavors to marry. Serve over a bed of basil leaves and garnish with fresh parsley and mint.

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