Due to popular demand (okay, due to L. asking for the recipe), below is a simple new recipe I recently tried. It uses glorious summer tomatoes, french bread, and basil. Simple. Straightforward. Delicious. Perfect for a picnic.
(just slightly adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)
about 8 ounces crusty french bread (mine was homemade, if you count a breadmaker as "homemade")
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
3 ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (the recipe calls for onion instead of so much garlic, but I like garlic)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup roughly chopped basil
Chop bread into bite-sized cubes and toast in a 400 degree oven until golden (about 15-20 minutes), turning once. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Toss together the tomatoes, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper (to taste), and garlic in a large serving bowl. Add the croutons and basil and toss to coat. Taste, adding more salt and pepper as needed. Serve.
I found that the longer the salad sat, the mushier the croutons became (surprise, surprise), so reserve the croutons to add about 30 minutes before you serve for the full joy of semi-crunchy croutons in the salad (you want them to have absorbed the juices, but not be mushy - a delicate line).
On another note, if you have any interest at all in vegetarian cooking, I cannot recommend this cookbook enough. It's a tome, really (996 pages). Recipes are separated out by type (this is in the "salads" section), but Bittman also reviews basics like how to cut an artichoke, or types of grains, or variations of bean dips. I turn to it again and again for simple recipes that taste good in an unpretentious way. Plus, his humorous voice comes through in many of the recipe intros, so it is an enjoyable read as well. If you like to read cookbooks. Which I do.