I wrote a few weeks ago about using leftover baguettes for croutons. Well, I am at it again. We seem to always have left-over pieces of baguette around, even more so during the Holidays. Today they become a super easy base for crostini. Cut pieces about a half to a quarter inch thick. Lay them out on a baking sheet. With a pastry brush, layer on a thin amount of extra virgin olive oil. Next, sprinkle on finely ground Pecorino Romano cheese, then grind over fresh cracked black pepper. Put in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes to let the cheese melt. Then take out of the oven to cool a bit. This is where you can get creative and top with a host of things. Try spreading on herbed chèvre for a tangy treat. Or top with a dollop of store bought tapenade. Or a sliced tomato. A mound of tuna or chicken salad. Truly, whatever sounds interesting to you. The crostini become a great base for so many things. Lovely to serve with cocktails. A great way to get culinarily creative and use up those baguettes all at the same time.
I don’t know what it is, but when the days grow longer and are filled with more sunshine, I tend to make more bread salads. This version can almost be a meal alone, but works perfectly next to a piece of fish or meat. Last night it teamed up with grilled tuna steaks and worked swimmingly as we sat outside and dined, alongside a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
The juice of the tomatoes mixed with sea salt and a good amount of the best extra virgin olive oil you can get your hands on, creates the dressing for this bread salad. I like to cut the juiciest tomatoes I can find first, and let the salt really do its trick by drawing out the natural juices of the tomato. Add olive oil and set aside. Since this is a composed salad, I like to get everything ready first, and mix it all together at the same time. If your baguette is a tad stale, all the better. Ours was not, so I cubed it and mixed the bread with more olive oil, salt & pepper and roasted it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. I still wanted the bread a bit soft, not really crouton like, and hard. This is a personal preference. Your call. Set aside. Now take the skin off an English cucumber, and cut into small pieces. Really any cucumber will do, I just like how English cucumbers have much smaller to no seeds–put those in a bowl. Now cube feta. You will also want black olives without pits, and a handful of basil leaves. It is now time to add all of this goodness together. Add everything into a large mixing bowl, tearing the basil leaves into pieces. Mix and let sit for a good 15 minutes so the juices get into the bread. This 15 minutes can seem like an eternity, as that bread salad just looks too good to not dive into. Your patience will be rewarded. Once it has time to meld all the flavors and juices, go for it. Enjoy!