Serve on a hot day as a refreshing side.
1 garlic clove, halved
1/2 lb loaf levain or any good country-style bread
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
1 tbsp Champagne vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 shallots, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cup quartered tomatoes
3 cups cubed watermelon
3 tbsp fresh basil chiffonade*
8 oz feta cheese or ricotta salata
1 head red romaine or butter lettuce or other greens
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F and set salad plates in the refrigerator to chill.
Step 2: Rub the cut side of the garlic clove all over the bread's crust, and then cut the bread into slices that are 3/4" thick. Cut the slices into cubes. (You should have about 3 cups of bread cubes. If you have more, that's fine. Just increase the amount of tomato and watermelon to match the bread measure.)
Step 3: Spread the bread cubes on an ungreased baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tbsp of the olive oil over the bread cubes and sprinkle them with 1 tsp of the salt. Bake until the bread has hard corners, but still has some squish inside, about 10 minutes. (Don't let the bread turn dark, but let it get hard enough so it doesn't turn to mush when you mix the panzanella together.)
Step 4: While the bread toasts, pour both vinegars over the shallots in a small bowl. Add 1 tsp salt and the pepper, stir, and then set the bowl aside to let the shallots macerate in the vinegar.
Step 5: Toss the tomato and watermelon in a large bowl and sprinkle on the remaining 1 tsp salt. When the bread cubes are toasted, toss them into the bowl with the tomatoes and watermelon. Whisk 2 tbsp of the basil chiffonade and the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil into the vinegar and shallots and pour over the bread and fruit, scraping all the shallot and basil bits into the salad. Gently toss the salad.
Step 6: Coarsely chop the feta into shards. Don't worry too much about size. When the basil is evenly distributed, add the feta, gently tossing so the cheese doesn't break up too much.
Step 7: Arrange lettuce around the platter as a garnish. Finish with a sprinkle of basil chiffonade before serving.
Preparing The Basil Chiffonade:
Step 1: Stack washed basil leaves so each leaf's spine faces downward and all the leaf tips point in the same direction.
Step 2: Roll the stack of leaves like a cigar, starting from one side.
Step 3: Slice across the roll, perpendicular to the leaf's spine, cutting the leaves into fine ribbons.
*A chiffonade is a precise method of slicing that produces fine, thin ribbons.
See more recipes from Cowgirl Creamery Cooks.
Reprinted with permission from Cowgirl Creamery Cooks (2013, Raincoast Books).