Funny thing about this salad…
I was going through a pile of cooking magazines last week, tearing out recipes that I wanted to try so I could toss the stack that cluttered up my shelf. I came across this salad recipe that I really wanted to try, so I clipped it and stuck it in my pile.
A few days later, I was grocery shopping and remembered the things in the salad that I didn’t have, so I picked them up from the store. When the time came to make it, I searched through my pile of clippings for the recipe. It wasn’t there. I thought I might have forgotten to rip it out of the magazine, so I dug my magazines out of the recycle pile and looked through all of them again. Didn’t find it.
After looking through my clipping pile and the magazines a second time without luck, I searched on the websites I usually go to for recipes and didn’t find it there, either.
“What if I had a dream about it?” I thought. I dream really vividly while I’m pregnant, and I distinctly remember seeing a picture of this salad on the bottom right-hand side of a page of a magazine. It was in a white bowl. And there was balsamic vinegar in the dressing.
I gave up searching for the recipe and searched online for similar ones. After piecing together the parts of the “mystery recipe” in my head and parts of recipes online, I came up with this. I’m happy with it. And I’m taking all the credit for it because I honestly don’t know where it came from.
from somewhere in Nat’s head
1 loaf of french bread or any kind of “rustic” loaf that has a thick, chewy crust. I used a rustic sourdough and it was fantastic.
1 can whole olives, sliced in half
1 small container of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small bunch of fresh basil leaves, chopped
A couple handfuls of fresh baby spinach, torn
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese balls, sliced in half (regular, cubed mozzarella works fine, too)
Fresh Romano or Parmesan cheese
2/3 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Slice the entire loaf of bread into one-inch cubes and placed in an extra large bowl. (The 32-cup Tupperware bowl that everyone has works well.) Add olives, tomatoes, basil, spinach and mozzarella. Toss together.
For the dressing, combine the vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until sugar and salt are dissolved. Continue whisking with one hand while slowly adding the oil with your other hand. Mixture may thicken slightly. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. (The bread seems to soak up a lot of flavor, so try eating a piece of spinach, too.)
Using a vegetable peeler, make about 1/3-1/2 c of Romano or Parmesan peelings. Sprinkle over the top of the salad. Stir again if you want them mixed in or leave them on top. Chill until ready to serve.
1. Don’t use pansy, pre-sliced bread for this salad. You’ll end up with a bowl of mush. Use the toughest, chewiest crusted bread you can find.
2. You can’t substitute the sweet, tangy flavor of balsamic vinegar. But if you must, at least use red wine vinegar.