July 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

Simply the Best

Toss old bread into this salad, Tuscan-style

Tuscan Bread Salad is also known as panzanella. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)

When it comes to bread, my eyes are always bigger than my stomach. I rarely keep bread around, save for in the freezer when I need some sliced for a sandwich or a bun for the burger. Usually if I buy a loaf, it sits around for a few days, then the squirrels get to take advantage of my shopping excess. A few weeks ago, though, I ordered a sandwich from a local deli and the bread was so outstanding that I asked to buy a loaf. Sure enough, after I indulged in a few slices for toast and a BLT, there it sat on the counter.

I was just about to toss it out for the critters one morning but as I tore off small hunks of the lovely sourdough rye, I stopped to assess: why not bread salad for dinner? So I finished tearing the bread into manageable chunks and made sure I had the right ingredients for this easy Tuscan bread salad called panzanella.

Some versions of this recipe call for cucumbers and anchovies, while others call for toasting the bread cubes before tossing with the olive oil. I opted for none of the extravagances however, and made it simple and delicious with onions, tomatoes, cukes, fresh basil, olive oil, vinegar and seasonings.

The longer the salad sits at room temperature the more the flavor develops. And when the tomatoes on the deck ripen, I will make this salad again and again. It makes an incredibly delicious and satisfying salad one that can even be used as a light main course and is perfect for hot summer nights. Serve with a crisp white wine.

Panzanella

Adapted from Gourmet

pound day-old crusty peasant-style bread, cut or torn into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
2 large tomatoes (about 1 pound), trimmed and each cut into 8 wedges
cup chopped unwaxed cucumber
cup sliced red onion
cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
10 fresh basil leaves, shredded

In a serving bowl, stir together the bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, oil, vinegar, basil, and salt and pepper to taste until the salad is combined well. Serves 4.

Per serving: 522 calories; 30 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 52 percent calories from fat); 54 g carbohydrates; 8 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 572 mg sodium; 9 g protein; 4.5 g fiber.

KLawson@detroitnews.com